Ditching Perfectionism in New Year's Goals: Conquering Perfectionism

January 1, 2024

Ditching Perfectionism in New Year's Goals: Conquering Perfectionism

Another year has flown by. Many of us are already setting meticulous plans for the coming one – focusing on self-improvement, fitness, and achievements. We all hope for a fulfilling year, but there’s one thing to be cautious of while setting New Year's goals: perfectionism.

Perfectionism isn't inherently bad. Many successful people pay great attention to detail. What's wrong with wanting to do everything perfectly? Some uninformed sources argue perfectionism is due to 'unrealistically high standards,' which is nonsense unless it borders on delusion. High standards are not an issue unless they come from a place of self-doubt or perceived inadequacy, not inherent shortcomings.

The problem lies in the origin of one’s perfectionism. For a clearer understanding, let’s distinguish between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism. Unhealthy perfectionism often stems from ‘overcompensation’ for feeling inadequate, exerting intense efforts to prove otherwise. This leads to setting high standards focused on flawlessness in work and being loved by everyone, which often results in self-criticism and ignoring incremental progress, leading to a vicious cycle of self-flagellation.

Healthy perfectionism, in contrast, is based not on overcompensation but clear, defined values driving passionate and purposeful striving, where the journey matters more than the outcome. Values here are directional, not determinative, and embracing them allows one to accept oneself, remaining unshaken by failure. As figure skater Kim Yuna once said when asked about what she thinks during stretching, "I don’t think about anything... I just do it." This illustrates a key to healthy perfectionism: when you're fully engaged in the direction you value, nothing else matters.

Healthy perfectionists show higher resilience and often achieve greater success than their unhealthy counterparts. Perfectionism itself isn't the issue – it's its root that needs reflection. If you're penciling in "be perfect" in your planner, why not take a step back and consider where your drive for perfectionism comes from?

Distancing encourages looking at thoughts from afar and advancing towards value-driven actions. This applies to perfectionism too. So, let's be cautious with our aspirations for perfection and move steadily towards a values-oriented life.

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