7 Ways to Use Perfectionism to your Advantage

Having high standards is something that folks in high pressure jobs or circumstances are very accustomed to! It sometimes can take a form of perfectionism that is helpful, and sometimes it can take a form of perfectionism that completely just stresses you out!! 

It can be helpful to know how to channel your skills related to having high standards. Sometimes, people may have the internal “blueprint” of needing to be perfect that is related to their family dynamic or what their family of origin expected from them. 

This can be super helpful as you move along your life path, but watching out for negative self-talk or being ultra hard on yourself is something to keep an eye on. Just because you had to be perfect in the past, doesn’t mean you still have to be! You can have all of the love and care that you need, even if you are a human being that isn’t always perfect! 

Here are a some ways to reframe perfectionism to work for you, not against you. 

  1. Use your high standards to motivate, not punish. Putting yourself down after not getting things 100% perfect will stop your self esteem in its tracks. Using a moderate amount of anxiety to keep you moving forwards will keep the momentum going without burning you out or putting yourself down.

  2. Set a “good enough” threshold. Research shows that we can often ruminate waayy beyond the effective problem solving point when we aim for 100% all of the time. Take a look at your thoughts- if you are still in problem solving mode after 20 minutes, see if you can use the 80/20 rule (80 percent exactly how you want it, 20 percent ok and not needing to be perfect). Or you can try implementing Parkinson’s law or time blocking. Set a certain amount of time to complete your task, and aim for your good enough standard. Use a timer or Pomodoro app, when the timer goes off it’s time to take a break and reassess.

  3. Use your strengths! You might be super organized: use this to your advantage! Try to be open to some flexibility. New and novel ideas can be easily integrated by the highly organized brain.

  4. You might be able to pay close attention to detail : this is a huge skill. Use it to your advantage! Does everything need to be absolutely perfect? Maybe not- try the mantra “leave some room for magic”.

  5. Natural optimism : this is an amazing side effect of having high personal standards (aka perfectionism). Use it to your advantage! Know that the best will happen and that things are always working out for you- even if it’s not exactly in the way you anticipated.

  6. Be wary “compare and despair”? Research shows it’s more effective to best your past self instead of keeping up with the Jones’. We now know that this is a much more self-compassionate tactic. Review your goals and be sure to allow some space for good things to come in unannounced! You are unique and that is a great thing.

  7. Make friends with criticism. The perfectionist mind knows criticism well- you might as well be friends! Redirect your negative self talk with reaffirming kind words to yourself- less stress equals a more effective, flexible and creative brain.

Perfectionism serves us to a point- if you feel the pressure that you put on yourself is too much, its ok to get help with managing the stress. Therapy for understanding your old patterns can be super helpful and can help you to be more productive, healthy and relaxed (!) in the long term.


Adriane Kruer