• Jessyca Stoepker

How perfectionism stops me from reaching my goals


Goal-setting is essential for anyone who wants to succeed in life. It doesn't matter what your goals are--they could involve bettering yourself in health or fitness, completing a project, learning a new language, or getting a good job or college acceptance. Unfortunately, most of us run into obstacles along the way that make the end seem impossible to reach.

One of those barriers is perfectionism.

Though I'm project-oriented (versus study-oriented), I've always been somebody who struggled to finish one on-time. Not because I lacked ambition or the skills to do so, but because everything I did had to be perfect. I would spend much longer on drawings, pottery, or research papers than most others in a class, just to make sure every detail was correct. While my grades did positively reflect the effort I put into these projects, my obsession for flawlessness took a toll on both my mental stamina and my capacity to move on to other things.

I currently have 3 paintings and a couple collages stowed away that are half-finished. I started them in September.

I told myself I'd start getting back into regular exercise this year. A month has gone by and I have yet to visit the gym--because I'm afraid that if I stop or don't meet my high expectations I'll feel even worse.

I procrastinated decorating my new apartment because it took forever for me to make up my mind. Should the walls be eclectic, since I have so much art? But I also love the minimalist style? Black frames or gold, or brown? A mix? How do I lay it out? Which color schemes should I go with?

I've been working on the same novel for several years. The preliminary one was printed when I turned 15, but I was never satisfied so I started over. I've rewritten every chapter, stopped and started, rewritten them again, and edited it a thousand times. In 2015 I made a goal of publishing it again within a year--and, 4 years later, I'm nowhere close to completing it.

These are just a few examples, but I think they illustrate how this thought process holds us all back from accomplishment and feeling proud of the work we do. Instead, perfectionism can lead to indecisiveness, procrastination, and mental stress. Underlying it all is usually a fear of failure or of not being good enough.

And unfortunately, while reassurance from others helps, no one can convince you that you're "good enough" except yourself.

Being aware of perfectionist tendencies is crucial for overcoming your fears and actually reaching your goals. Here are some things that I have found to help:

  • Be spontaneous. If you don't have time to plan, you can't really mess with how things are "supposed" to be.

  • Involve your friends in a project or goal. Make something a group effort, and let others take the reins. It's hard, but it takes the pressure off and provides support. It's also less likely for me to be mad at another person versus myself.

  • Stop and reflect. If you find yourself overthinking the details, take 5 minutes to breathe. Think about your actions and lines of reasoning. Why are you putting so much pressure on yourself? Try to work through your feelings and understand that perfection doesn't exist. You are always doing your best. There are no consequences if you don't meet a certain expectation, so stop punishing yourself.

I hope this reaches any of my fellow perfectionists out there when our habits start to have negative effects on our daily lives. In the meantime, I'm going to try and work on a few of those projects I mentioned earlier...

Thanks for reading!

-Jess

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