How to Rid Yourself of Your Pesky Perfectionist Mindset
Let’s talk about perfectionism, shall we?
The incessant drive to do more, be more, achieve more. Striving towards the “ideal”.
Just one more tweak.
The last pound.
Your final certification.
All bringing you closer to that dreamy, elusive place where things are “just right”. When you’re “ready”.
Until you move the goal post and keep tinkering. Because now that you’ve come this far, you know you can take it one step further.
(How’d I do — can you relate?)
I’m willing to bet the answer is yes. I haven’t met anyone (seriously, anyone) in my life — clients, friends, family, or otherwise — who hasn’t found him or herself stuck in a perfectionist cycle at one point or another.
Perfectionism is, at its core, rooted in fear of failure. More specifically, fear that you’re a failure.
Pay close attention to my word choice here. I didn’t say “fear you will fail”. I chose to use “you’re a failure” on purpose. Because when it comes to this topic in particular, I find that we integrate our misstep into our sense of self and overall being. We become the failure itself, which deems us unworthy, unacceptable, and not enough.
This distorted belief makes the perfectionist mindset particularly potent and painful. The opposite of confidence, to say the least. The effect of perfectionism on one’s confidence is akin to throwing a bucket of freezing water on a fire.
I know you might feel like you’ll never not be a perfectionist. That I’ve described you to a T, and you’re stuck in the cycle for good. (Trust me, I’ve been there. I identify as a recovering perfectionist myself!)
But I’m here to tell you there’s another way. One so effective that positive psychology research links it to a greater sense of well-being and decrease in suffering (Shapiro & Wallace, 2006).
Let me explain:
In the world of positive psychology, another name for a perfectionist is a maximizer — someone who is always looking for what’s missing. Yet this dedication to finding the best leads to high levels of distress and upset.
“Best” is not synonymous with satisfaction. Not by a long shot.
The much preferred alternative is to be a satisficer — someone who embodies the phrase “good and done is better than perfect and pending”. Who knows that life will never be exactly as they want it to be, so they accept it rather than resist it. They’re confident and in touch with what matters to them, which leaves them “satisfied once the threshold of acceptability based on their intrinsic values is crossed” (Shapiro & Wallace, 2006, p. 691).
While maximizers “may achieve better objective outcomes than satisficers, they are likely to experience these outcomes as worse” (Iyengar, Wells, & Schwartz, 2006). Their endless commitment to something more never stops, and as a result, they’re disgruntled, frustrated, and unfulfilled.
I’d be lying if I said the road from maximizer to satisficer was easy. Like most worthwhile things, it takes time, effort and an unwavering steadfastness.
But as soon as you realize the contentment you seek won’t be found in perfectionism, the path becomes much, much easier.
What’s one opportunity you have coming up where you can apply the satisficer’s mantra, “good and done is better than perfect and pending”? Shoot me an email at email@example.com or share in the comments below.
Iyengar, S. S., Wells, R. E., & Schwartz, B. (2006). Doing better but feeling worse: Looking for the “best” job undermines satisfaction. Psychological Science, 17(2), 143-150.
Wallace, B. A., & Shapiro, S. L. (2006). Mental balance and well-being: building bridges between Buddhism and Western psychology. American Psychologist, 61(7), 690.