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Just Perfect: 5 Signs You Might Be A Chronic Perfectionist

Just Perfect: 5 Signs You Might Be A Chronic Perfectionist

Perfectionism is a new kind of disease that is afflicting millions of people–you always have to get things right, take control and take on the lion’s share of work so that you can feel that you’re controlling the path of your own destiny, bending the universe to your very will.

This, which you know, is impossible. Believe me, I’ve tried.

I’m a recovering perfectionist, having been a high achiever in high school and college. The fact that my life isn’t exactly going the way I wanted has proven to be a bit of a balm and has helped loosen up (some of) my obsessive, controlling ways.
If you think you might be suffering from some chronic perfectionism, have a look at these symptoms and see if you might need to step back from worshiping at the pedestal of perfection.

1. You always have to be in control.

The first sign of perfectionism is the need to always be in control. If you’re working on a school or college project, you’re always the one who takes charge, dictates the pace and delegates tasks to everyone else.

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The only problem is that even delegating can leave you antsy and worried that things just aren’t being completed to your personal standards. When group members bring in their work, you rework it and edit it a bit (or a lot) and then make sure that it all makes sense to you. You take on the lion’s share of work just to make sure you always stay in control of the project.

It’s not that you don’t trust other people–it’s just that you trust yourself more, and you know deep down that you’ll be able to get it all done and sorted perfectly.

2. Nothing is ever good enough.

Another sign of true perfectionism is that nothing ever seems to be good enough. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s something serious or something trivial; nothing can ever seem to be just ‘done’ enough.

If you’ve written something, you’ll always want to tweak a word or a phrase or change the font until it becomes perfect (at which point you’ve run over deadline). If you’ve drawn something, you’ll keep adding or changing details about it, until the picture no longer resembles what you intended.

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The idea of nothing ever being good enough comes from a deep anxiety of missing out on something that will somehow stop it from being the best representation of yourself–that one word that could have made your essay, or the little detail that would have made your drawing outshine the others.

3. You have to do everything yourself.

This has already been mentioned in an above point but it really is worth noting–being a perfectionist means that you generally have to do everything yourself.

It doesn’t always have to be literally doing everything by yourself–you’re not superhuman after all–but you can be damn sure that you’ll be mentally supervising and creating a checklist of stuff to check up on and correct the second you have a bit of free time.

The art of puttering becomes a corrective institution–tucking things away a little neater so that they’re just so, adjusting something when someone leaves the room so that they don’t feel offended that you changed what they did right in front of them, or even doing the smallest of small adjustments that only you will notice.

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4. You can’t let go of the little things.

The little things bug the hell out of you–and we’re not talking about things like a relative mispronouncing a word, or not getting the last muffin in the lunch line.

We’re talking things like finding yourself baking and the recipe goes slightly wrong. It’s not wrong enough to affect it much, but immediately you’re deflated and considering half a dozen ways to either correct the situation at once, or to trash it all and start again. After all, if it isn’t absolutely perfect, what’s the point? A missing crayon, a lost sock or a cracked plate later, and you’re tearing your hair out and considering a mid-afternoon drink.

Not being able to let go of the little things can haunt your every waking moment and can even cause some pretty random flashbacks to times in the past when you messed up or didn’t do as well as you could. That time you split your jeans at school or got a B instead of your usual A? Yep, that’ll haunt you.

5. The idea of ‘getting things perfect’ is driving you insane.

Finally, the key symptom of being a perfectionist is when you need to get things right the first time and every attempt after drives you absolutely up the wall. It’s exhausting and unfair, and you wish you could turn it off, but you can’t.

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This absolutely impossible need to be the perfect person all the time is–while kind of admirable–also hugely detrimental to your overall health.

To-do lists, pie charts, self-help and self-improvement books and the glossy sheen of the media are like drug fixes to any hugely-invested perfectionist. We crave the idea of one day attaining this perfect, permanent state of competence and unhurried serenity, which is a lovely thought, but one that is about as pragmatic as a teapot made from chocolate.

As someone who once saw the Stepford Wives as role models for their perfect lives, I can all but admit that being a perfectionist sucks. It is time-draining and actually burns up more time, energy and effort than just letting go and letting some things just fall where they may. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of being in control, but there comes a point where the strong grip of control becomes a noose of constraint.

I’m working on easing off on my perfectionist ways, and while they’ll have to grasp my to-do list out of my cold, dead hands, I’m starting to let things go and loosen up a little bit. After all, life isn’t perfect, but everyone else seems to be doing okay. And, right now at least, that’s good enough for me.

More by this author

Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on September 15, 2020

4 Ways to Deal With Big Life Changes in a Positive Way

4 Ways to Deal With Big Life Changes in a Positive Way

Life changes are constant. Whether it’s in the workplace or our relationships, nothing in life ever remains the same for long.

Regardless of the gravity of change, it can always be a little scary. So scary, in fact, that some people are downright crippled by the idea of it, causing them to remain stagnant through anxiety.

Have you ever noticed how much of life’s transitional periods are riddled with anxious vibes? The quarter life crisis, the mid-life crisis, cold feet before getting married, retirement anxiety, and teenage angst are just a few examples of transitional periods when people tend to panic.

We can’t control every aspect of our lives, and we can’t stop change from happening. However, how we respond to change will greatly affect our overall life experience.

Here are 4 ways you can approach life changes in a positive way.

1. Don’t Fight It

I once heard one of my favorite yoga instructors say “Suffering is what occurs when we resist what is already happening.” The lesson has stuck with me ever since.

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Life changes are usually out of our control. Rather than trying to manipulate the situation and wishing things were different, try flowing with it instead.

Of course, some initial resistance is natural if we’re going into survival mode. Just make sure you are conscious of when this resistance is no longer serving you.

If you’re feeling anxious about impending life changes, it’s time to practice some techniques to address the anxiety directly. These can include meditation, exercise, talking with friends about how you’re feeling, or journaling.

If you’re worried about a big life change, such as starting a new job[1] or moving in with your partner, do your best to control your expectations. It may help you to talk with people you know about their experiences going through similar changes. This will help you form a realistic picture in your mind of what things will look like post-change.

2. Find Healthy Ways to Deal With Feelings

Whenever we’re in transitional periods, it can be easy to lose track of ourselves. Sometimes we feel like we’re being tossed about by life and like we’ve lost our footing, causing some very uncomfortable feelings to arise.

One way we can channel these feelings is by finding healthy ways to release them. For instance, whenever I find myself in a difficult transitional phase, I end up in a mixed martial arts studio.

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The physical activity helps me channel my emotions and release endorphins. It also helps me get in shape, which generally increases my mood and energy levels.

Exercise is important in cultivating positive emotions, but if you’re struggling with anxiety in particular, it’s important to cultivate a regular exercise routine as opposed to a one-off workout. One study found that “Aerobic exercise can promote increase in anxiety acutely and regular aerobic exercise promotes reduction in anxiety levels”[2].

If exercise isn’t your thing, there are other, less intense ways of cultivating positive emotions and reducing anxiety around life changes. You can try stretching, meditating, reading in nature, spending time with family and friends, or cooking a healthy meal.

Find what makes you feel good and helps you ground yourself in the present moment.

3. Reframe Your Perspective

Reframing perspectives is a very powerful tool used in life coaching. It helps clients take a situation they are struggling with, such as a major life change, and find some sort of empowerment in it.

Some examples of disempowered thinking during life changes include casting blame, focusing on negative details, or victimizing[3]. These perspectives can make awkward transitional phases much worse than they have to be.

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Meanwhile, if we utilize a more positive perspective, such as finding a lesson in the situation, realizing that there may be an opportunity for something, or that everything passes, we can come from a greater place of ease.

4. Find Time for Self-Reflection

Having time to reflect is important at any stage in your life, but it’s especially important during transitional periods. It’s quite simple really: we need our time to step back and get centered when things get a little crazy.

As a result, big life changes are perfect for doing some self-reflection. They are opportunities to check in with ourselves and practice getting grounded for a few minutes.

Take a look at this reflective cycle adapted from Glibb’s Self-reflection guide (1988):[4]

Use self-reflection when facing life changes.

    Self-reflective exercises include meditating, yoga or journaling,[5] all of which require some quiet time to get yourself together.

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    One study found that journal improves “self-efficacy, locus of control, and learning”[6]. A healthy sense of self-control can make the process of change easier to bear, so that in itself is a great reason to try self-reflection through journaling.

    To learn how to start journaling, you can check out this article.

    Final Thoughts

    Big life changes may rock us for a little while, but they don’t have to be as bad as we initially perceive them. If handled in a positive manner, transitional periods can pave the way for some serious self-growth, reflection, and awareness.

    Cultivate a sense of positivity and find ways to diminish the anxiety around life changes. Once you make it to the other side, you’ll be grateful that you made it through in the best way possible.

    More Tips on Facing Life Changes

    Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

    Reference

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