How to Recover from Perfectionism or Perfectionistic Standards
Monday, October 24 2016 Becky Oberg
Do you know how to recover from perfectionism or perfectionistic standards? Perfectionistic standards are one of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), according to schema therapy, which I found tremendously helpful in recovering from BPD. Basically, perfectionistic standards are standards set so high that no human can meet them. When we fail to meet these standards, we begin to think we're failures and bad people, and that triggers our symptoms such as self-injury. But the good news is we can recover. Here are some suggestions on how to recover from perfectionism or unreasonably high standards.
Overcome Perfectionism by Recognizing Your Limitations
Every human being has limits. If we had no limits, we'd be God and have a whole slew of other problems. There is nothing good or bad about having limits. It's what make us unique. We need to accept and honor our limitations. For example, I joined the Army in 2003, in complete denial about my mental illness. I suffered a nervous breakdown during basic training and was discharged.
It still bothers me, but I'm learning to recognize that I did my best; it just wasn't something I could hack. That doesn't make me a failure; it just means I tried to do something I wasn't capable of doing.
As long as you do your best, you have nothing to be ashamed of. To overcome perfectionism, you need to recognize that limitation.
I just published my second book. That's a major accomplishment; one not a lot of people do. I'm not sure how long it took me to write it, but if it was anything like my journalism career, some days were better than others. In my professional life, I have good days and bad days. On my good days, I can function like a normal person. On my bad days, I'm either in the hospital or actively symptomatic. I've learned to accept that I won't get much done on bad days, and that's okay (Bad Brain Days And Depression Intensity). I have a sickness that limits what I can do. That doesn't make me good or bad; just sick. I have to recognize my limitations and honor and not have perfectionistic standards.
Be Realistic to Recover from Perfectionistic Standards
There is nothing wrong with aiming for the moon. But it is unrealistic to expect to hit it every time. We need to be realistic with our goals. For example, it's not realistic for me to expect my book to be a New York Times bestseller when I'm a relatively unknown author with no advertising budget. I can accept that. I can be happy that I just got the thing published after years of rejections (20 is a conservative estimate). I worked hard and accomplished my goal of publication--anything beyond that is just the metaphorical icing on the cake.
Take an honest look at your circumstances, acknowledge them and then set a reasonable and realistic goal. Aim high, but keep in mind that you're human and will sometimes miss your target. There's nothing wrong with that--it happens.
Know You Are Good and Can Deal with Perfectionistic Standards
One of the traits of BPD is black-or-white thinking. In other words, we believe we are either all good or all bad. There are very few truly bad people. Know you are good. You are a human being made in the image of your Creator, one step below the angels. That's pretty dang special.
Know you are good, and you will act like you are good. For example, I love doing disaster relief work. Not many people can hack that, but it gets me pumped up. It means the world for me to go out there and make a difference--even if it seems small and insignificant, like throwing a starfish back into the ocean. That makes me a good person with limitations, not a bad person who fails everything I try. As President Lincoln said, "When I feel good, I do good. When I feel bad, I do bad. That's my religion."
You are a good person. Yes, you have limitations. Yes, sometimes you can be unrealistic due to perfectionism. Honor and accept who you are. That's the key to mental wellness. That's how to recover from perfectionistic standards.