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  • Writer's pictureJaime Castillo, LCSW

5 Steps for Overcoming Perfectionism

Updated: May 9, 2023

Fun Fact: FYS Therapist & Owner Jaime has the quote “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection” tattooed on her leg as a daily reminder to choose self-compassion over impossible standards and avoid the perfection trap. Between scrolling through your Instagram feed that’s flooded with fitness influencers and beauty accounts, to having your personality and looks judged during sorority rush week, to being mom shamed for going back to work too soon or not at all after having a baby, our society sets us up to feel bad about ourselves. These toxic messages are hard to escape, so we must make a real effort to stop perfectionistic thoughts in their tracks before they start to have a serious negative impact on our emotional health. Since tattoos are not for everyone, here are 5 steps you can write down and incorporate today that will help you part with perfectionism for good:

1) Notice your thoughts

Seems simple enough, right? It’s been speculated that we have, on average, about 50,000 thoughts per day. Regardless of the number, it is nearly impossible to be aware of all of our thoughts as they are happening, so slowing down and noticing them when they’re happening can actually be a challenging undertaking. In order to do anything productive with our thoughts, we have to first be aware of them. Practice noticing your thoughts the next time you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed. If you have a thought that seems to fuel perfectionism like, “I’ll never look that good in a bikini”, ask yourself, would you say that to your best friend or to a small child? Take a moment here and really imagine yourself saying to a 5-year-old girl “You’ll never look that good in a bikini.” If you’re thinking this feels horrible, keep reading.

2) Picture a stop sign or say “STOP”

So, you’re officially appalled. GREAT! You should be equally as appalled when you say those things to yourself. After all, why are you less deserving of kindness than everyone else? Once you’ve decided that your thought is fueling perfectionism, try picturing a stop sign or say the word “STOP” out loud. You might try both methods and see which works better for you. The reason for doing this is that when this type of thinking has been a long-standing pattern, it can take a lot of effort to get out of the self-criticism loop. Using a visual or saying the word “stop” out loud can help break up this automatic process and make it easier to change.

3) Reframe

Back to the best friend or child question: So, what would you say instead? It may be something like, “You look amazing, plus you’re probably way funnier than she is.” Or “The way you look in a bikini really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things” or “You can do anything you set your mind to!” We’ll call this the “kind statement.” Whatever kind statement you would prefer to say to your loved one, practice saying out loud to yourself. Note: you may feel very resistant to this at first. That’s okay. Keep doing it and it should feel less forced over time.

4) Set an Intention

Make your kind statement your intention for the day. Anytime you notice thoughts that fuel perfectionism, picture the stop sign and then redirect in your mind to your kind statement.

5) Repeat

The next day when you’re scrolling through Insta again and notice the thought, “I’ll never be that successful”, REPEAT Steps 1-4!!

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