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10 Ways to Challenge Your Inner Perfectionist

February 8, 2021

successful woman sitting in her office with her laptop laughing because she's figured out how to challenge her inner perfectionist, accept herself, and increase her success

1. Get Clear About What a Perfectionist Is and Does


To challenge your inner perfectionist you need to first understand what perfectionism is. Perfectionism is usually a cover up for fear. It’s a fear of failing or making mistakes, or a fear of being judged, criticized, or rejected. If you’re a perfectionist, you likely worry that if someone were to see your flaws then they wouldn’t accept you for who you are.  So, you try to do everything you can to appear perfect. 

If perfect is the standard you set for yourself, you will never be able to meet it.  It’s impossible. No matter how much time, energy, work, or research you put into something, it will never be perfect.  As a perfectionist you set yourself up to fail every time you do something.

2. Know Your Inner Perfectionist’s Patterns and Habits

Getting to know your triggers, or the things that most often bring out the perfectionist in you, is a great starting point to help you challenge your inner perfectionist.  When you know what your perfectionistic patterns and habits are, you can anticipate and plan ahead for potential pitfalls.  Then you can create interrupters to help you move forward more successfully.

If you’re wondering what some of these perfectionistic patterns and habits might be, click here and head to my blog post called 10 Signs You Might Be a Perfectionist.

3. Make an Enough List

As a recovering perfectionist myself, my go-to thought was that I didn’t have enough time.  For me, this thought seemed so true.  Making an Enough list is one of the tools that has helped me move away from ending the day with disappointment and frustration at all the things I didn’t get done.  Instead, it helps me focus on and celebrate my wins, big and small. 

To create an Enough list, choose three important things that you’ll produce or complete today.  Then decide that they will be enough.  If ever you’re able to do something above and beyond those three things, you can choose to do that.  But, completing those three things is enough for the day.

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4. Meet Yourself Where You Are

As a perfectionist, you often have expectations of what you should know and be able to do that aren’t realistic for where you are right now.  For example, if you accepted a new leadership position in your company, you could choose to believe that you will do your best while learning on the job and you’ll improve with experience.  Instead, you would likely choose to believe you should know everything right now in order to do the job independently and with perfection.

Meeting yourself where you are means giving yourself grace.  It means trusting that you will learn, grow, and become more of who you want to become.  It’s knowing that this is a process and where you think you should be might not be your immediate reality.

Instead of expecting to do and know everything right now, create a realistic plan for yourself that involves steps that are broken into manageable pieces. Doing this will help you follow through.  Then you can continue to show up for yourself and keep working to meet your short and long term goals.

5. Ask Yourself Good Questions

As you challenge yourself to work toward meeting your goals, anticipate that it won’t be easy.  Plan to not feel like doing the tasks that you have to do.  Anticipate that you’re likely going to think of many creative reasons why you can’t do what you’ve set out to do.

Instead of going into this with the belief that it’ll be easy and you’ll be motivated to do everything, realize that that probably won’t be the case.  Know that when you aren’t motivated and you don’t want to do it, nothing has gone wrong. 

Instead, plan ahead for this to happen.  Then ask yourself good questions to help you through this part of the journey.  Prior to doing the work, ask yourself what obstacles or roadblocks you think you’ll run into.  Make a list of all of them that come to mind.  Then ask yourself what you can do to overcome each one. Go through each obstacle and create your own strategy or plan for overcoming each one.

6. Learn How to Handle Failure

To challenge your inner perfectionist you must learn to handle failure. When you’re learning how to handle failure I suggest starting by taking purposeful action that results in small mistakes and failures first.  For example, I started with setting time limits with the emails I sent.  When the time was up, I would send the email.  It resulted in a few mistakes and typos.  Instead of rewriting and sending additional emails to acknowledge and correct the errors, as I often see my colleagues do, I’ve made a commitment to myself to let them be and move on. 

And guess what? Nothing bad has happened. I’ve survived.  I haven’t lost my job.  I haven’t had any negative consequences, actually.  Well, except for my thoughts about what the person on the receiving end of my emails was thinking about me.  But, I address that in my next point.

Another possible option for you to try is to allow your house to not be perfectly clean before inviting friends or family over.  This used to be a big struggle for me. It’s still an area that’s uncomfortable for me.  But now I like to think that when my house isn’t perfectly clean, my guests can feel at home and truly relaxed.  I also like to think that it lets them relax when they invite us over to their houses because they know they don’t have to have their houses perfectly clean for us.

The goal here is to practice failing or lowering your standards in areas where the stakes are low.  The more you practice this, the more you teach yourself how to face your fears and recognize that you’re human and everyone makes mistakes. 

7. Learn to Feel Your Feelings

Remember that the reason we do or don’t do anything is because of how we think we’re going to feel.  Let’s say you think you’re going to feel humiliation or embarrassment if you make a mistake or appear like you don’t know enough.  If you’re afraid to feel those feelings, you’re going to do whatever it takes to avoid those negative feelings.  If, instead, you learn to feel and process your emotions, you also learn that the worst thing that’s going to happen is a feeling.

A feeling is just a vibration or sensation we feel in our bodies.  Knowing this helps us to get to a point where there isn’t any feeling we aren’t willing and able to feel.

This opens us up to taking more risks and trying new things.  Then the world truly becomes our oyster.

If you want four simple steps to help you learn to process your emotions, click here to go to my blog called 4 Simple Steps to Feel Better.

8. Befriend Imperfection

When you look at anything or anyone, you can find imperfections.  Everything is imperfect. You get to choose to take the perspective that those imperfections make things unique, special, and even more valuable.  Or you can choose to see those same imperfections as flaws that diminish something or someone’s worthiness. 

There is no right answer or way you have to view the world.  But, choosing to befriend imperfection will allow you to see others and yourself as whole and worthy despite the imperfections.  Letting go of the shame, judgement, and unattainable expectations will allow you to feel lighter, calmer, and much happier with exactly what is.  The choice is yours to make.

9. Interrupt Your Negative Self Talk

You have conversations and thoughts that are happening in your brain all day long.  Most people don’t stop long enough to recognize what their thoughts are.  Regardless of whether or not we notice our thoughts, they’re there.  Taking time to notice your thoughts is one of the most powerful exercises you can do for yourself.

When your thoughts are negative or you notice that you’re beating yourself up more than you ever realized, know that nothing has gone wrong.  You are a human with a human brain that’s been in control for a long time.  

Instead of believing your thoughts and allowing them to continue to make you feel bad, notice them and talk back.  You can acknowledge them by saying, out loud if you want, “I see you and that’s not what we’re going to think.” You might even tell your thoughts what you think of them.  That could sound something like this, “I think that’s a lie,” or, “I’m choosing not to believe that thought.”

This exercise of noticing and interrupting your thoughts moves you from thinking negative thoughts on autopilot to eventually thinking the thoughts you want to think on purpose.

10. Celebrate Your Successes, No Matter the Size

Driven women, like you, are often going through the motions of getting things done.  They’re focused on their goals and often forget to take time to slow down and celebrate their accomplishments.  The other thing they often do is view their accomplishments as less than worthy of celebration because in their eyes they didn’t meet their perfect expectations.

To challenge your inner perfectionist, choose to slow down and celebrate every success you have.  At the end of each day, make it a point to identify at least 3 things you did well and choose to celebrate yourself.  The more you train yourself to focus on the positives, the more you’ll begin to notice those without trying.

One Last Note!

The recovering perfectionist in me sees the perfectionist in you.  So, if you’re thinking that you need to do all of these right now and with wild success, let those expectations go.  Instead choose one of these to try.  Focus on implementing that one over and over until it becomes more natural and easy to do.  Then come back for another one.

If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, give yourself some grace.  Reach out to me in the comments or email me at hello@katrinaklooster.com and I’ll help you get started.

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