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How To Overcome Maladaptive Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a good trait. But what is its dark side? How to overcome maladaptive perfectionism? Let’s find out.

A few days back, I was writing a blog post on the significance of living a lie. While writing it, I realized that I was quite dissatisfied with my content. I found some errors and mistakes that I rarely miss out on.

However, after rectifying it, I found even more errors and mistakes until I had to rewrite it. Meanwhile, I was thinking about how I would write it this time. I began writing, and once again, I wasn’t satisfied with my content.

I wondered the reason for my slow performance and my dissatisfaction with the content. It seemed as if I wanted it to be flawless. Now, it is a good trait, right. But, I was so obsessed with writing my article the way I wanted it to be. Perfect.

It took a toll on me and made me quite frustrated and self-critical. It is where I realized that I was an unhealthy perfectionist all this time.

Unhealthy perfectionism.

No doubt, perfectionism is great, and we must always strive for the best results. However, when we obsess unhealthily over something, it becomes unhealthy perfectionism or maladaptive perfectionism.

Maladaptive perfectionism is not good for our mental health. It adds baggage of self-doubt and self-neglect, which ultimately leads to anger, frustration, and depression.

So, let us discuss what is the dark side of perfectionism and how to overcome maladaptive perfectionism.


What is maladaptive perfectionism?

Perfectionism is one of the most desirable traits. Almost every leader in history was a perfectionist. Besides, it also brings many benefits to it. 

But, these benefits turn out as limitations if we are not careful with our never-ending desires and ambitions to grow. Hence, let us discuss maladaptive perfectionism.

A woman with a phone representing obsession with work.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Maladaptive perfectionism is the never-ending desire of gaining perfectionism concerning a task with unrealistic expectations and standards.

In other words, when a person becomes a slave of his high expectations to be a perfectionist, then he becomes a victim of maladaptive perfectionism.

So, we have discussed the term maladaptive perfectionism. Now let’s find out what is its source.


What is the source of maladaptive perfectionism?

Yes, the source of maladaptive perfectionism.

Our desires and ambitions to be perfect can turn dark when we do not allow ourselves to compromise on our goals. However, that is not what maladaptive perfectionism is.

When a person is too adamant or stubborn to treat his task any less than his previous perfect one, he walks towards the darker path of perfectionism with little to no patience for mistakes.

In other words, the person is too afraid to treat his work any less than what it deserves to be. As a result, he does not rest until the work is worthy of his appraisal. But, when he approaches the task with unrealistic expectations, it becomes difficult to handle it.

It is similar to a writer refining his content multiple times until it becomes too difficult to read.

Another reason why maladaptive perfection occurs is when a person is too focused on the result. He feels that he has reached his goal, but actually, he doesn’t. In other words, it is a trap!

However, it does not end here as the seducing art of perfectionism makes us restless and uncomfortable with our progress. We feel dissatisfied and suffer from feelings of self-doubt and self-neglect until we shut ourselves completely.

Now, that we have discussed its sources, let’s find out how to overcome maladaptive perfectionism.


How to overcome maladaptive perfectionism?

We understood how perfectionism can take a toll on us and drive us to the pit of unhealthy expectations. We also saw the source of the maladaptive perfectionism. Besides, the despair and dissatisfaction we face are evident, considering the high standards we build for ourselves.

A girl smiling representing traits of healthy perfectionism.
Photo by Vinicius Altava from Pexels

But, it is possible to address these issues if we want to overcome them. In other words, there are some ways through which we can escape the unhealthy cycle of perfectionism.

Here are five ways to overcome maladaptive perfectionism.


1. Stop worrying about the failure:

We often fear failure when we are perfectionistic. However, if we are suffering from maladaptive perfectionism, failure is no option. Moreover, the inconsistencies prevent us from ignoring it.

As a result, we develop an unhealthy obsession with success and do not consider other alternatives. However, it can be controlled if we are careful with the task and perform it without worrying about failure.

In other words, it is best to approach a task as it is without raising your expectations to the point of an unrealistic target difficult to reach.


2. Conclude and be decisive:

One of the major problems with overly perfectionistic people is their indecisiveness. Due to their desire to be perfect, they see multiple ways to do things but do not conclude. There is almost nothing that makes them take a step forward.

For instance, overthinking is the result of perfectionistic behavior, which comes off as procrastination. However, wasting time on insignificant things makes us inefficient. Therefore, we can’t make decisions.

Hence, we must decide to begin and go on with the task with a healthy amount of perfectionism.


3. Do not always aim for the best:

It is good to focus all our energy on a particular task. It shows our willingness to attain perfection in it. Moreover, giving 100% is where we succeed most of the time.

But, do not always aim for the best in everything. There are some areas where it is fruitless to attain perfection. Besides, most of our efforts are not on our task but on ourselves and how we want them to turn out. 

Hence, we should try to think with a rational mind and approach it with a healthy mindset and improve it as much as possible without worrying too much about it.


4. Give your task space for improvement:

The best way to approach a task is an improvement. Yes, improvement is the result of our ever learning and growing nature. If we realize at first hand the significance of improvement in our tasks, things will be much better and simpler than expected.

Further, we might also learn many new things to add to our task and make it better than before.


5. Lastly, do not blame yourself for the imperfections:

This is where most people fail to recognize what they are missing. Our self-critic grows with our expectations and standards. However, when we fall short of our potential, the inner critic blames us for the unintended imperfections.

Consequently, it leads to an unhealthy loop of depression and dissatisfaction. We feel as if the whole world has come down on us.

Therefore, it is important to understand that we are humans and learn from our mistakes. We should be more flexible and easy-going rather than blaming ourselves every time for our faults.

5 ways to overcome maladaptive perfectionism

Final Words:

To sum up, our perfectionism is very unhealthy when we make it unhealthy. Therefore, by analyzing our negative behavior we can prevent a lot of brooding and uneasiness concerning our abilities.

Therefore, we can overcome maladaptive perfectionism by focusing on the task rather than ourselves.

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