Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by a relentless drive for perfection and setting impossibly high standards for oneself. It can manifest itself in various aspects of life, such as work, relationships, physical appearance, and personal achievements. Unfortunately, perfectionists often experience significant levels of anxiety and stress related to their pursuit of perfection.
Aiming for perfection may offer some benefits, such as praise and promotion to top positions in the workplace. It can also be the brain’s way of trying to protect us from criticism, rejection, and abandonment. As a result, it can be challenging to let go of perfectionism, despite its negative effects on emotional well-being.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for perfectionism can help you clarify your priorities and evaluate whether your perfectionistic behaviors will move you closer to or further from those values. Although perfectionism may help you in some ways, it can also prevent you from taking risks, starting new projects, and enjoying flexibility and spontaneity. Through ACT, you can learn and practice new ways to “unhook” from self-critical thoughts, feelings of shame and anxiety, and the urge to rigidly pursue perfection, so you can move towards the life you truly want.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you question beliefs like “I must always perform perfectly to be accepted” or “I need to be harsh with myself so I don’t get complacent,” that no longer serve you. CBT uses cognitive and behavioral strategies to challenge these assumptions and rules that may have developed from past experiences. By replacing them with more flexible and realistic rules like “I can be accepted even if I make mistakes” or “I can learn from my mistakes without beating myself up,” you can learn to overcome perfectionism.
Self-compassion is another powerful tool to treat perfectionism. Practicing self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding, particularly when you face failure and hardship. It means recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and learning to be kinder to yourself when you face your imperfections. By practicing self-compassion, you can become more accepting of yourself, more willing to take risks and learn from your mistakes, and more engaged with what truly matters to you.