You’ve been told you’re too perfectionistic. You’re probably wondering just what that means. You see your actions as paying attention to details, taking care of your responsibilities, and taking pride in having things done and done well. You call it being conscientious. People who know you call it perfectionism. Our Atlanta counselors see lots of perfectionists. And we love working with them!

There is a fine line between being conscientious and being a perfectionist. Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by the need for flawlessness and perfection, worrying what others will think, and engaging in harsh self-criticism. Our Atlanta counselors know that perfectionism can drive people to strive for unattainable ideals or unrealistic goals leading to problems such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

If this sounds like you, you might be struggling with perfectionist thinking. When you’re ready to change those thought patterns, try these tips from an Atlanta Counselor.

Make A List

Think about the benefits and costs of trying to be perfect. Has it helped you? What has it cost you? Time? Relationships? Opportunities? Your emotional health? You may find the cost is too high.

Set Boundaries

If you tend to get stuck working on one thing until it’s “perfect”, this one is for you. Set a strict time limit to work on any particular thing. When the time is up, stop and move on. This strategy helps you learn to move from one task to the next, allowing things to be as they are.

Listen to Your Self-talk

Perfectionism is driven by highly critical self-talk and “all-or-nothing” thinking. This way of thinking is sometimes directed at others as well. When you find yourself being self-critical or critical towards something someone else has done, intentionally find something positive to recognize. At first, it might be hard but with practice, you learn new, more positive thought patterns.

Get Real

Perfectionist thinking tends to focus on lofty goals that are unrealistic and cause distress when they are unmet. When setting goals, be mindful that a smaller goal is not “imperfect” or a reflection of your worth or abilities. Over time, you will find that the consequences you fear from not being “perfect” will not happen. Using the SMART strategy can help.

SMART is an acronym for goals that are:

Specific: The goal should identify a specific action or event

Measurable: The goal should be quantifiable

Achievable: The goal should be attainable given the resources you have available to you

Realistic: The goal should require you to stretch a little but allow the likelihood of success

Time-limited: The goal should have a time frame that includes a beginning and end.

Changing thought patterns can be challenging. For more support, a counselor who is experienced in treating perfectionism can help you to do the work needed to make lasting, positive changes.