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Top tips for changing perfectionist attitudes

Perfectionists have a set of distorted beliefs and rules that drive them to put pressure on themselves to achieve unrealistically high standards. These thoughts, even though they may never have been proposed or endorsed by their manager, employer or family, convince them that it is only by reaching these standards that people will think well of them and provide them with opportunities for recognition and advancement.

Here are some tips for changing a perfectionist attitude.

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Don’t fear mistakes. Give yourself permission to make a mistake. Mistakes are an inherent part of being human. Ask yourself, how much will this matter next month.


Think about the 80:20 rule. Getting things right 100% of the time is unrealistic, it’s much healthier to work towards it 80% of the time.


Be kinder to yourself. Forgive yourself. There is no such thing as perfection, things could always be better. Congratulate yourself on the job you did.


Accept that life is for learning. Admit to yourself that you don’t know everything. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or failure.


View criticism as helpful feedback and identify what you could learn from it.


Set yourself a limit. Be firm with yourself and recognise when enough is enough. Set yourself a time limit for how long you will keep checking something.


Focus on the bigger picture. When you focus your attention on just one thing, such as a spelling mistake, it means you’ve gone into tunnel vision.


Tune into your self talk. If you find yourself getting anxious, frustrated or unhappy, tune into what you are telling yourself you must/mustn’t, should/shouldn’t do and assess how realistic these expectations are.


Praise yourself. Don’t rely on others to praise you. Regularly congratulate and praise yourself. Record your praises in a diary.


Practice your new behaviour. It can be very hard to change when you’re a Perfectionist. You may have to remind yourself from time to time.

Learn more about having a perfectionist attitude in my best-selling book, ‘How to Prevent Burnout’.

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