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10 warning signs of perfectionism (and what to do about it)

Have you noticed that you are on edge lately because your to-do list is never-ending? Do you often find yourself thinking that you simply cannot rely on anyone to do anything?

If you have, welcome to the society of perfectionists! It is not an easy club to be in, to be completely honest. The good thing is that the first step towards getting your life back on track and feel joy again is realizing that this way of living is becoming a burden.

Here are the signs of perfectionism and helpful tips that go with them!

1) You set too many goals

You want to do a good job, achieve a successful career, be a good parent, always answer the calls of your friends, look good, cook all the meals at home… the list goes on and on. Sounds familiar?

If you catch yourself trying to be a Superman, doing everything by the book, you should know that you are on the path of burnout. Trust me, you don’t want to go that road.

Burnout syndrome is the worst kind of tired you can feel. I’ve felt it myself last year. You will feel like an empty battery about to turn off. Complete depletion of energy. If you push yourself that far, the way back is hard, but not impossible.

The first step is to take small breaks to breathe. Not only you will get the chance to think about your next step, but you will also honor your body and give it a chance to recover. You wouldn’t overheat your car, right? Why do it to yourself then?

2) You are overly critical

Whenever your child, a friend or colleague does something bad, you are full of compassion and understanding. You hear yourself saying “it will be ok, just try again, it will be fine”.

However, when you forget to do something or you do it in the wrong way your inner criticizer slashes you with comments you wouldn’t ever say to anyone you love.

Why the double standard? Don’t you deserve your compassion and love? Well, this may be one of the most difficult things for a perfectionist to accept. It is ok to make mistakes, the world will keep spinning, you can bet on it!

3) The fear pushes you

Are you constantly being scared of failing? Do you often have nightmares about missing a deadline? Even though being responsible is a virtue, being driven by fear that you will fail at something is a sign that you are expecting too much of yourself.

Living constantly in fear can have great consequences on your health, both mental and physical. You may start feeling headaches and back pain because of all the strain you put on your body.

In order to loosen up a little bit, you can start small. You can “forget” to prepare dinner and order something tasty. When you see that your family won’t mind, it can become your outlet.

Let Friday evening be a time to relax and do something that you will enjoy. It can be watching a movie, a game, exercising, a bubble bath, or sleeping. Listen to your body and give it what it wants.

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4) Your eyes are on the prize only

Life is not all about achieving goals one after another. However, for a perfectionist, days are just about the goals. If the goal is achieved, the satisfaction is minimal because there is always something else coming up. At one point, you start feeling like a hamster on the wheel.

If this is something that rings a bell, then you should hit a pause button! Even though every proper perfectionist will say that there is simply no time in a day to enjoy the moment, once you scratch the surface, you can dig a little time just to focus on your breathing – inhale and count to three, exhale and count to six. Do this a few times and notice the change.

5) Is procrastination your companion?

A naïve observer would expect that a perfectionist does everything… well perfectly, right? Not quite.

As previously mentioned, there is a great fear of failure. This is what makes a person procrastinate until there is no time left to think about it. That usually causes an anxiety attack, sweating, and heart-racing which is a vicious circle.

It is very hard to step out and stop it, but it is possible. By observing the way you work and the way you make priorities will help you remove the things that can be done by someone else, or by you some other day. It will give you time to finish your tasks in a calmer manner. This leads us to another thing – making priorities, or the lack of the skills to do it.

6) Inability to make priorities

There is one thing you need to understand about perfectionists – everything is a high priority! If you noticed this in your behavior, don’t worry. The fact that you are able to detect it will help you make the change.

One thing that may be helpful in the beginning is to write down everything you do in one day. Once you see how many things you do may give you a better idea of why you are so tired all the time.

That may actually help you be more aware of the energy you have and the way you can spend it better. Every successful person will tell you that the keyword is “delegate”. Once you start sharing the work with others, you will have more time to appreciate the journey, instead of just chasing the goals.

7) You are painfully aware of the time

This may sound strange to the people who have been lucky enough to never feel the torture of desire to do it all and do it flawlessly. However, for people like me and thousands of others around the world, this feels like home.

We are constantly aware that time is running out. We think about the time we need to do things and we want to push in as much as things possible in 24 hours. Since this is not possible, we often start “stealing” time from our sleep or even meals.

Once it goes that road, you cannot expect good results with your health. The sooner you realize this, the better. There is no money in the world that someone can pay you for your health. Even if you pay the doctors and the medications, it doesn’t work that way.

Your body and mind need rest, food, and air. It is as simple as that. However, coming to this realization is not easy, you can be sure of that. You will notice that you are making excuses for yourself, such as “I need to work, I need money, people are relying on me”. Guess what – you don’t have to destroy yourself on the way.

8) There is a complete absence of peace

There is one catch when you are constantly chasing perfection – you can never have it. It is like a dream and it is simply not possible. Peace comes when you can do something and be proud or at least pleased by it. It is the moment when you can actually appreciate what you have achieved and give yourself the chance to process it.

Perfectionists are people who are always in the middle. There is neither beginning nor an end, only “what should I do next”. It is not exactly the dream world you imagined as a kid.

One thing that helped me to defeat this demon is yoga. It feels like a pause in the chaos, the chance to feel the moment. For you, it can be something else, but it is only important to take a break from all the running around.

9) You can’t stand being criticized

People, who try hard to do everything properly, easily snap if someone thinks differently. As you can imagine, this makes relationships very difficult. If you notice that you argue when you hear something that you don’t like, it is time to step back.

We all like it when we are right, but no one likes know-it-alls. Give your partner a chance to tell you what bothers them and who knows – maybe they understand you better than you think. If you share your burden, you may even deepen your relationship.

It is hard when you get a mirror in front of you and you start seeing the impact your behavior has on your family, but it is a chance for change.

10) You have anger issues

Living life when you don’t give yourself the chance to make a mistake and you push yourself to the ultimate limits all the time takes a toll for sure.

All the tension starts building up and since your entire life revolves around achievements, it has to come out somewhere. It will pour in the most unexpected moment and probably on the people who didn’t deserve it at all.

Fighting with everyone around is certainly not the way anyone wants to live their life. Being aware of the anger and finding good outlets is the first starting point. Find a way to let all of that negative energy go and give yourself the chance to enjoy the life you have.

How to get your life back on track?

Identifying you have a problem is a great starting point towards improving your life. Start small and enjoy the moments when you can have your coffee in silence or have a conversation with a friend.

Make a list of the things you can do in a day and be realistic. Remove all the things that aren’t absolutely necessary. Ask for help – this may be a challenge but do it anyway. You will be proud of yourself once you do it. Call your friends and ask them to come and watch your kids, or help you with the project you are struggling with.

If you can’t rely on a friend at the moment, hire someone to do things for you. Paying someone to clean your house once in a while will save lots of your energy and free your time for some other things.

Think outside the box and see how you can do less and enjoy more. Write down all the hobbies that you would like to start or come back to. We all need some time to do the things that make us forget anything else.

Who says that you can’t learn to play an instrument even if you’ve never played one before? Many successful people discovered their talents pretty late according to society’s standards, so why not try something new?

Remember, this is a chance to enjoy the process, not overachieve and not try to do your best. It is the chance to reconnect with your inner world.

Please your body

Keep in mind that we are not robots, we cannot work all the time. Sometimes good night’s sleep can be a good start. If you are struggling with staying asleep, experiment with different bedtime routines.

Pay attention to what you eat, since consuming junk food is certainly not helping the process.  Take some time to enjoy the food and feel the taste.

Exercising is necessary for helping the body stay healthy and it will simply help you feel better. Choose the exercises that help you feel good and appreciate the body you have.

All of these things will certainly help you feel the energy change in your life. Take it one step at a time and you will soon notice that the joy is back. Small things truly matter and sometimes your dog’s face when he sees you cannot be replaced by any amount of money you chase by working all the time.

Happiness is often hidden right in front of us, we simply cannot see it. We hope you will realize just how beautiful life can be once you lower the standards you have set for yourself!

What do you think?

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