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Perfectionism Causes Stress



Sometimes stress is helpful, like when you see a saber-tooth tiger and decide to run away. But very often, we suffer from stress and anxiety that does nothing but erode our health and relationships and suck the joy out of life. What can we do about constant stress and low-grade anxiety to which we are all (more increasingly) exposed?

One vital step on the road to a more peaceful, enjoyable life is to decide to identify and then consciously turn away from perfectionism. We would probably all agree that the person who gets upset about spots on glasses, and who demands streak free windows is probably suffering from perfectionism. The person who lives in a cluttered filthy house is also suffering from perfectionism. Let me explain. Perfectionism is the “line in the sand”. Some of us walk up to the line and kill ourselves trying to get as close to perfect as we can. In the process, we develop health problems and drive away our friends and family when they don’t live up to our standards. Some of us walk up to the line and give up. Since we can’t clean our floor perfectly, we don’t do it at all. Since we don’t have time to “do it right”, we just don’t do it. That person is suffering from perfectionism as well. Perfectionism extends into all areas of our lives. We can be perfectionistic about pretty much anything – parenting, marriage, sex, choosing the correct wine, grammar, fashion, how other people should behave, how others should perceive us, food, bodies, cleaning, even how holidays should be celebrated.

If you are upset, anxious or stressed, ask yourself if perfectionism is the culprit. Decide to release yourself from this horrible taskmaster. Yes, it will take time to live this decision out. And you don’t have to worry about turning into a slob. You will still have standards. You will just be free to live in the real world instead of the virtual world. You will enjoy life instead of being constantly disappointed that perfection has not been achieved. You will find it easier to recover from “setbacks”. You will make friends with life.

Anytime you catch yourself being drawn into perfectionistic thinking (it’s insidious!), try having a few affirmations you can say to yourself, such as

  • Nothing is perfect in this world.
  • I am beautiful, capable, (insert adjective), but I am not perfect.
  • Perfectionism is outta here!
  • Perfectionism is the enemy of the good.
  • Good enough is good enough.
  • Start from where you are, not from where you’re not.