Escaping the Perfectionist Mentality

Ben Cheung
4 min readAug 31, 2021

--

Image via Getty Images

Who doesn’t want to be perfect?

To be a perfectionist — one who refuses to accept any standard which falls short of perfection is detrimental to an individual’s self-development.

Unfortunately, such desire to be perfect — to refuse to accept error, is reinforced within the education system through standardized testing.

“I achieved 93%, however, it’s not 100% — thus, it’s not good enough….”

As individuals, we are met with roadblocks daily for which we may not have a perfect solution. However, we may still try to search for one which leads to a downward emotional struggle.

We should view such challenges as an opportunity for self-development and as a stepping stone to our individual goals for which we are determined to pursue.

Rather than looking for the optimal solution, we should be assessing what we can take away from such problems.

As a student and fellow perfectionist who used to be entirely fixated on GPA and grades, I can state with confidence that I an improvement in mindset after trying to break free of this fixed mindset of requiring perfection.

So, how does one escape such a mindset?

The fixed mindset of a perfectionist where we may be fixated on a specific goal, yet not considering the larger picture.

What does it all even mean?

A perfectionist mindset is one where you are stuck in an endless obsession of being fixated on a particular aspect such as grades, GPA, tasks at work, and a variety of other goals.

So, ultimately, how do we break out of this?

  1. Set Realistic Short Term and Long Term Goals

First, take a breather, get a paper and pencil/pen, or open up an empty document and start typing out some of your goals. Set a series of realistic short-term goals and finally ultimate long-term goals.

These could be goals that are achievable and realistic in time frames like 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months. Goals can be challenging but must be realistic.

2. View tasks/assignments/work as a stepping stone for your goals.

Next, try to view each task as a stepping stone towards such goals. For example, homework, labs, assignments — are all tools and practice to learn the material taught in the classroom. Getting 100% is great, however, sometimes, it is not worth putting in those extra hours of work to convert a 95% to 100%. Those hours could be better allocated elsewhere, such as physical well-being, mental well-being, personal development, or social development.

From each task, focus on how it can contribute to your goal. How does it help you move a step closer?

Every opportunity is a learning opportunity. Seize such opportunities to reap the benefits, however, there’s no need to consume it entirely for little effort to reward ratio. By thinking of every task as a learning opportunity, it will allow you to push through and keep your motivation level up.

3. Prioritize your mental health and physical well being

Your mental health and physical well-being are much more important than the task you are completing/grades you are aiming to achieve. If you end up having the highest GPA, but absolutely poor mental health and physical well-being, then what was the point? All efforts seem to be wasted as you will have less time to enjoy the rewards reaped.

4. Adjust to focus on self-development.

Focus on how you can improve both in skills and as a person. Work on how you could fix flaws, weaknesses, and improve strengths. It is recommended to allocate some fixed amount of time daily or weekly to do some self-reflection. Rather than mulling over the details of bad performance, it is important to look ahead and view such experiences as learning opportunities. There is no true failure unless you don’t learn from the failure.

5. Set a schedule to keep yourself on track and not multitask.

Multitasking can also be detrimental. It is recommended to set and schedule your time to focus on specific tasks one at a time. Complete each and check it off. Don’t do multiple activities or tasks in one go. You will simply increase the probability of dropping the ball somewhere.

Trello is absolutely amazing as a worklist to organize your day and TODOs.

By slowly adjusting a fixed mindset to that of a growth mindset where rather than results, an emphasis on self-development is the priority — you can break free of the perfectionist mindset.

— — — —

Hopefully, this article provided some insight. Feel free to reach out and connect if you have any questions or would like to contribute to this article. I will be still updating this as more ideas and additional content arise.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mrbenc88/

--

--