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How To Stop Sabotaging Your Goals As A Perfectionist

Some time ago, my boss commented that I was a perfectionist. I shook my head, disagreeing and thinking, I don’t consciously strive for perfectionism in anything I do.

I stored the comment away in the back of my mind… as an interesting incorrect comment that someone made about me. 

However, over time, I began to realize that I had issues that came from a subconscious, self-imposed perfectionism. I realized that I had troubling behaviors that came from shame and self-concealment – as I subconsciously tried to project a certain “perfect” image.

I learned why I was envious of people who wear tight-fitting clothing even though their stomachs aren’t perfectly flat. (My idea of the perfect body makes me ashamed of my healthy curves.)

I learned why I was so ashamed of my fertility issues. (Because the perfect person can easily have kids.)

I also realized that sometimes – when it comes to my goals – my perfectionist behaviors left me feeling depressed and immobilized.

But I also discovered that it does not have to be that way. The key to perfectionists’ life goals is to realize when behaviors are sabotaging the goal-setting process.

This way, we can take the action needed to achieve our goals – because we deserve it. 

4 ways being a perfectionist sabotages life goals

1. The goal chasing

The exercise of setting and achieving life goals contributes to your well-being. This is due largely to the positive experience the process creates in your life – as you participate in actions that are meaningful to you. Chasing your goals creates a snowball of positive affect in your everyday life. 

However, being a perfectionist can sabotage that great snowball effect. A perfectionist’s ability to self-criticize actions and achievements can derail the snowball and leave you feeling demotivated. It can rob you of your well-earned feelings of well-being. 

2. Your overthinking immobilizes action

The tendency of a perfectionist to overthink things can spiral your energies away from goal getting action into an immobilized state. 

This is where we need to remember the phrase, “stop thinking and start doing”. 

3. Trouble with setting realistic goals

As a perfectionist – we can struggle setting realistic goals. Your expectations of yourself can be so high – that the goals you set can be unrealistic. 

This could be the goals themselves, the timeframes, or the quantities. 

The end result is that you can set yourselves up for failure and sabotage the goals setting experience. 

4. Hyper-critical self-evaluation robs you of your wins

An important part of the goal-setting process – and its link to well-being – is the celebration of wins. But it can be hard to celebrate the wins.

Personally, I can be very guilty in this area. I am constantly finding the glass half full. Rather than celebrating the 99% of things I did achieve – I will focus on the 1% I didn’t. I won’t celebrate the fact that I achieved everything I wanted to – because I will think I should have set out to achieve more.

How to combat the self-sabotaging behaviors of a perfectionist

There are a number of things that you can do to help you to go after your life goals. 

Catch yourself

The key when it comes to your goals is for you to identify your self-sabotaging tendencies so you can address them.

When you go through the goals process – tune into your self talk – and work on addressing that perfectionist criticism with some reality, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. 

Practice self-acceptance and self-compassion

This is easier said than done when it comes to the self-criticism of a perfectionist. But it is the most important step when you catch your brains being unkind to yourself.

Accept yourself and all your perfectionistic tendencies. Don’t get upset with yourself. 

There are many layers to who you are and the great thing about knowing you are a perfectionist is now you can address the behaviors when they get in your way. 

Related article: 10 Steps to self-love and self-compassion

Allow mistakes

As you try and reach your life goals – you can make a lot of mistakes. These mistakes provide us with valuable feedback as we refine and redirect our actions as required. 

It is important that you do not get hung up on these missteps. If an action you take is a failure – that does not make you a failure. It makes you courageous for taking the chance and trying to reach your dreams. 

Be realistic

It’s important to make sure you are setting realistic goals. Utilize frameworks such as SMART goals. Make sure you assess goals before you set them to ensure that they are achievable in the timeframes you set for yourself. 

It is also important to approach your post-goal assessment with realism and self-compassion. Anything that you didn’t achieve is not a failure – it provides great feedback about how you can set more achievable goals next time. 

Identify the negative self-talk

When you have caught yourself being critical – don’t get upset with yourself (which will quickly spiral into an issue). Accept that this is the way that your brain works and let yourself off the hook so you can move forward.

When you find yourself being negative – also think of all the associated positive things that your brain is probably choosing to ignore. The more we try and think about the glass being half full – the more natural and unconscious it becomes. 

Take action

If you are finding yourself unable to take action because of fear, overthinking or any other reason – just do one thing. 

Take action right now – even if it is the tiniest step (like writing a list of things you need to do) so you can start the ball rolling. Then, set yourself a task of another tiny thing to do before the end of tomorrow. Through un-intimidating baby steps, you can achieve your dreams.

There is no reason a perfectionist can’t reach their life goals and dreams – you just have to be self-aware and show self-compassion along the way.

Related article: How to start your morning like perfectionist coach, Sam Laura Brown

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