6 Ways to Calm Perfectionist Tendencies
Calling someone a perfectionist used to be a compliment. More recently, we’ve seen more and more mental health issues stemming from people pushing too hard to be a certain way. I know because I used to be one of them. It’s no secret that I struggled to be happy and find contentment in my life. I would push and push myself beyond my breaking point, only to feel worse after. Eventually, I learned how to be kinder to myself and find things that I love doing, without focusing so heavily on the outcome.
After years of ups and downs, here are a few of my favorite ways to help reset when I find myself reverting to perfectionist tendencies.
1. Practice the S.T.O.P. Method
(T) ake a step back - Take a breath. Come back to your center, maybe put a hand on your stomach to feel your breathing. Five cleansing breaths can do so much for you and help you relax.
(O) bserve - Ask if what you’re thinking is true. For instance, if you’re running late, you could be thinking about what people are going to think and that it’s the end of the world. Ask yourself, can I zoom out from this picture and give myself space to be human? Take another breath.
(P) roceed - Once you’ve re-centered and zoomed out, think about ways you can take care of yourself. Now that you’ve acknowledged what you’re feeling without attaching to it, start thinking of self-care tools you can use to help soothe your body and mind.
2. Get comfortable in the gray area
We live in a society that is comfortable with all or nothing. We are either good or bad, happy or sad, up or down. There is so little room for the in-between and to be a human. Whenever you find your mind swinging from one side to another, can you settle in the middle? Can you cut yourself some slack for doing the best you can? When you challenge the all-or-nothing mentality, you can feel more at ease with being in the middle. Replace these thoughts with empowering ones such as, “I can be both productive and take time to rest.” Another one of my favorite mantras that I use is, “I am doing the best that I can.” Keep mantras like these with you once you start to find yourself wading back into perfectionist territory.
3. Get outside.
I don’t care if it’s freezing outside, taking time to walk around and clear your head can help you remove yourself from the repetitive thoughts. Take the time to zoom out, see the big picture and realign your focus. Leave your phone behind and come back into your senses by looking around, feeling your feet on the sidewalk and taking time to be with yourself.
4. Imagine what you would say to a friend in your shoes.
When you notice how hard you can be on yourself, it’s easier to reclaim your power by imagining what you would say to a friend who was in your shoes. For instance, if your friend was worried about something at work, you wouldn’t tell them to suck it up and force themselves to feel differently. You would likely listen, remind them that they are human and help them take care of themselves. Next time you find yourself fixating on being perfect, imagine how you would help a friend handle the situation you’re in.
5. Watch what you say to yourself.
You and your subconscious mind believe what you tell them. Choose your words wisely and start catching yourself when you don’t say nice things. Don’t beat yourself up more or get mad at yourself, just change the thought. Instead of “Ugh your so stupid some times”, switch it with, “I’m human and it’s okay to make mistakes.”
6. Talk to someone.
I’m a big proponent of therapy. It’s nice to have someone listen, without judgment, as a third-party observer. I’ve worked through my own perfectionist tendencies and, while still not completely over them 100 percent of the time, I’ve come along way with a therapist’s help. Making the investment in yourself is so worth it, and I promise you aren’t alone in wanting to live a more peaceful, content life.