08 Oct Healthy Striving for Personal Excellence Can Conquer Perfectionistic Concerns

Trudy Jacobsen

If you find yourself overwhelmed by perfectionist concerns, it may feel as if nothing you do will ever be quite right.

Whether it’s your performance in school, in the workplace, with your friends or at home with your family—perfectionism can lead to chronic disappointment and unhappiness. It may also negatively affect those around you.

You may never be able to fully stop striving for perfection. And you don’t have to give it all up, but you can use that energy and focus differently. Instead, you can find ways to strive towards personal excellence and take the pressure off of “perfectionism” altogether.

What’s the difference?

The Difference Between Perfectionism and Personal Excellence

Perfection is not something that is attainable. No one is capable of being truly “perfect.” And, therefore, perfectionism inherently sets you up for failure.

Personal excellence, on the other hand, is completely attainable. You are capable of excellence, and you are certainly capable of living up to your personal goals. The importance here is to recognize that personal excellence involves standards that you can set for yourself. You don’t have to compare yourself to others—you need to focus on yourself and what you see as excellent. Your standards may be ever-changing, and that’s okay!

When you strive for personal excellence every day of your life, you can be successful in reaching it every single day. Perfectionism, however, is a complete dead-end.

Striving for Healthy Goals

Another important distinguishing factor between perfectionism and personal excellence is that the latter allows you to make healthy strides.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you want to work out more. A perfectionist’s concern might be something like, ‘I need to start working out every single day to be healthy.’ A personal excellence concern might be, ‘I should attempt to go to the gym as much as possible.’ This goal is so much healthier because it takes the pressure off of doing something every single day.

If a day goes by and you don’t go to the gym, a perfectionistic mindset may make you feel disappointed with yourself. A personal excellence mindset will allow you to feel pleased when you do go to the gym—and not too hard on yourself when you aren’t able to go one day.

In other words, personal excellence focuses on what goes right, whereas perfectionism focuses on what goes wrong.

At times, though, no matter how much you try to not focus on perfection, perfectionistic thoughts can become quite intrusive and hard to shake. What can you do then?

Coping with Intrusive Perfectionistic Thoughts

If you’re a perfectionist, you know all too well that you cannot simply turn off these thoughts. Sometimes, the best way to gain self-awareness is to exhibit negative thoughts or behaviours and be able to recognize that within yourself, and then, re-evaluate such thoughts.

If you are dedicated to putting personal excellence above perfectionism, you will be able to turn these negative thoughts into something positive. For example, if you miss a deadline at work and you think to yourself, ‘Wow, I feel like such an idiot. I’ve let everyone down,’ you can transform this thought into something more optimistic: ‘Okay, I made a mistake. I’m not getting fired over this. I won’t let it happen again, and that’s all that I can do at this point.’

Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s completely inevitable that you’re going to mess up. Perfectionistic thoughts punish you for that. Personal excellence thoughts help you grow instead.

What’s the Next Step?

One of the best ways to deal with the negative aspects of perfectionism is to see a professional therapist. Not only can they help you with your specific perfectionism (work, family, school-related), but they can give even more insight into how to transform negative thoughts into positive goals.

A therapist can also help you understand that messing up isn’t inherently bad. A perfectionist’s worst nightmare is messing up—but this can be unlearned. It will take time, and it will take dedication, but you absolutely can transform your perfectionism into something healthy, forgiving, and goal-oriented.

If you would like more information about how to overcome perfectionism, please contact me on (07) 3282 5453