Break Free of Perfectionism: Make Mistakes!

By Erica Cramer, LMSW

Many people say that they are perfectionists.  So what is perfectionism? Perfectionism is a way to be constantly disappointed with yourself.  Perfectionism is an excuse to avoid a situation where you may receive an unsatisfactory result or even fail.  Perfectionism is an obstacle to taking chances and risks.  A dear friend once told me, “life is about making mistakes.”  I make mistakes every single day — and let me tell you, a big secret to life is accepting that mistakes are an inevitable part of being human and learning to move forward when you make them.  So how can you do that?

  1. Acknowledge that you have made a mistake.  The first step in moving forward from mistakes is accepting that one has been made.  Since everyone makes mistakes, it should not be a surprise that you do too.  Accepting that you have made a mistake is very challenging for some people and may require some humility on your part.

  2. Figure out ways you will not repeat the mistake. Reflect back on the situation and carefully go over everything that happened.  Be honest with yourself and determine where things went wrong.  Think of what you can do differently in the future and to avoid this mistake again.  Also, reflect on other people who were involved in the situation and how you could have handled their involvement differently.

  3. Think of how you can grow or learn from the mistake.  When you make a mistake, it is easy torment yourself for the unforeseeable future and waste even more of your precious time.  Instead, use this as an opportunity to grow into a stronger and more competent human being.  You may come to find that you were better off after the mistake than beforehand.

  4. Get an alternative opinion.  Consulting friends, family or your therapist can be helpful with any of the previous steps.  Sometimes it is helpful to get insight from an outside perspective that may see things differently than you do.  Compare their opinion to yours and figure out what how to make the most sense of the situation.

  5. Actually move forward.  Plan activities that you enjoy, focus on the next task at work, etc. The more space you can put between you and that mistake, the easier it will be to heal from the experience.  As time progresses, the magnitude of the mistake you make will fade and you will learn to feel better about it.

Erica Cramer is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy LCSW. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Elizabeth Cobb