Perfectionist Traits – 6 practical tips on managing high standards
- Amelia Flores
- July 29, 2019
It has become a norm in our current society to be a high performer, a perfectionist, to be expected to excel at everyday tasks and to meet high standards in our work and life.
Whilst this can be a positive influence on us it can also be detrimental to our overall mental health, especially when these high standards are difficult to “switch” off from.
So, when do you know if your personal standards of achievement are becoming a problem for you? In a general sense, perfectionist people can often be very hard on themselves, have unrelenting standards that may cover all domains of functioning (work, home, social) and when they are unable to meet their own personal expectations in these areas, there is a deep sense of failure, shame and sadness. You may experience an inability to make simple decisions, you may find yourself procrastinating or struggling with concentration and memory. Further, you may experience physiological signs of distress and panic and experience a low mood or anxious ruminating thoughts. Overall, if you feel a sense that your “normal” functioning or “sense of self” has changed or shifted negatively in recent times, this might be your first sign that you are putting too much pressure on yourself and its time for change.
Some practical guidelines that might help include:
- Stop and pay attention to your triggers. Are there specific situations (at work, home or socially) that are causing you stress and anxiety? What might be happening for you at these moments that make you to feel this way? Become aware of “triggering” situations and mentally prepare yourself on how you might cope in such moments, for example, if you know a certain meeting at work will be difficult,
prepare in advance for how you might manage and cope with it (E.g. practice what you might say in the meeting, take a walk afterwards)
- Identify some of your thoughts around your personal standards or expectations. Could these be leading to you feeling anxious or overwhelmed? Write them down and understand them, highlighting the positive and negatives of such thoughts, with the focus on how to minimize the negative aspects.
- Plan for alternatives. Could your thinking be too self-critical and is there another way you could be looking at things?
- Make a note of your strengths and achievements and take time to celebrate your wins.
- Make a well-being plan. Reach out for support from others, reconnect with your family and friends, plan an exercise regime, and schedule some “down time”. Essentially, allow some mental switch off time and practice being mindful and present in your current life moments rather than worrying about “what’s next”.
- Focus on “what you can control” in difficult, stressful and high-pressure situations and take the time to re-prioritize your areas of worry based on this.
Having high standards in terms of life performance and achievement can be a positive attribute to have, but if these standards become perfectionistic and self-critical, the impact upon your personal well-being and happiness can have a negative consequence and lead to psychological burnout.