A perfectionist is someone who believes “I am what I accomplish.” This can be paralyzing because it stops the perfectionist from taking positive risks. They fear that a failed attempt equals a failed person. Perfectionists constantly critique themselves, and their self-esteem suffers.
“Come on,” you say, “it’s good to set goals and strive to be our best selves.”
Yes and no. Setting goals is achievement striving, which is very different from perfectionism. Achievement striving is when someone sets goals that are reasonably attainable, consistent with their own values, and self-focused. Achievement Strivers constantly notice their victories and learn from their mistakes using a growth mindset.
Here are some steps to move from perfectionism to achievement striving:
Increase focus on positives and celebrate even the smallest successes.
Lower the pressure by setting reasonable goals that are consistent with your own values
Reframe mistakes not as failures but as learning experiences that help you improve over time.
Teaching Example: Love Somebody by Rachel Roasek
Sam is the girl who can do anything. She is popular, pretty, and precocious – and she works hard for her success. Sometimes she works so tirelessly that her mental health suffers.
Sam is a classic perfectionist. Here’s the back story: Sam’s mother left her with a caring grandmother in Massachusetts as she sought her own success in California. This left Sam desperate to prove she was good enough for her mother’s love. Also, Sam keeps a map on her wall that highlights a dead-end town she never wants to live in. Many of her decisions are motivated by her desire to avoid what she perceives as a lackluster life.
If Sam followed the steps laid out above she’d find herself under less pressure, with an increased sense of self, and way less anxious. Maybe the Somebody she’d love would even be herself.