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Categories > Mental and Emotional Health > Developing a healthy attitude

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Are you a perfectionist?

» The toll it takes

» A gentler tack

Is the desire to please everybody all the time robbing you of happiness? Take this quiz to find out.

1. Worrying about upcoming tasks keeps me from taking pride in a job well done.
 Agree
 Disagree
2. There’s no sense asking someone else to do something. I’ll just have to redo it—the right way.
 Agree
 Disagree
3. I would consider postponing a lunch date with a friend if I didn’t look my best.
 Agree
 Disagree
4. I focus more on my mistakes than on my successes.
 Agree
 Disagree
5. I have difficulty letting go of a project until I’m sure it meets my standards.
 Agree
 Disagree
6. Friends and family say that I’m uptight and stubborn.
 Agree
 Disagree
7. I feel like a failure if I don’t complete a task as well as I planned.
 Agree
 Disagree
8. It’s hard for me to keep my sense of humor while I’m learning something new.
 Agree
 Disagree

If you agreed with four or more statements, you probably spend more time fretting about the future and beating yourself up over the past than enjoying the moment. The problem: You’re stuck on the perfectionism treadmill—even though you’re always on the move, you can never do enough or do it well enough. What’s keeping you running? In all likelihood, it’s the desire to please everybody all the time and create a risk-free, orderly world.

The toll it takes

Ironically, the quest for perfection often has the opposite effect. Setting unrealistic goals, for example, may actually fuel your fears and frustration. The tendency to micromanage projects may alienate the very people you want to make happy. And in the end, being unable to delegate a project only means you’ll end up with more work. It’s no wonder that procrastination and indecision are common by-products of perfectionism. In its most extreme form, the trait is linked with anxiety, depression and even suicide.

A gentler tack

Once a perfectionist, always a perfectionist? Not necessarily. While the trait may be well ingrained, it is possible to change your way of thinking. Take these steps to start being gentler on yourself.

  • Challenge your perfectionistic patterns. Even though the voice inside your head is telling you not to leave the house without making the bed (what would your husband think?), do it anyway. There! Can you live with the consequences? And are they all that bad?
  • Celebrate your successes. Make a fuss over a job well done. While you’re at it, accept all compliments and take credit when it is due.
  • Recognize that you can’t be all things to all people. Nor should your self-esteem depend on pleasing others. Practice doing things that make you—and you alone—happy.
  • Accept this fact: Mistakes will happen! So when you do make a mistake, figure out what went wrong and learn from it.
  • Set realistic goals. Are you taking your limitations into account? Will the steps you have to take fit into your daily lifestyle? Is this the right time to be pursuing this particular goal?


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