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You Vs. Perfectionism: 3 Little Secrets to Overcoming this Demon

In a recent post on the popular blog Beyond Blue, Therese Borchard interviews another fellow blogger, Michelle Russell who writes the blog, Practice Makes Imperfect. In this post Michelle gives us 5 steps to tackle perfectionism.

Perfectionism can be one of the most insidious Mind Traps that exist. It ca be a thief of your time and paralyze you. It can fire up incessant rumination that drives the motor of both anxiety and depression.

In a recent blog post, 3 Steps to Boosting Self Esteem: Mondays Mindful Quote, I brought up a quote by Dogen Zenji:

“To be in harmony with the wholeness of things is not to have anxiety over imperfections.”

Easier said than done.

 In Therese’s interview, Michelle shares a few secrets that I’ll share with you:

  1. The 10 Year Question – “Use the 10-year question. Ten years from today, will I even remember this, let alone care about how well it was done or whether it was done at all?” This question is most likely going to shrink your worry as most likely, the answer will be no. To even ask this question, I might argue, takes mindfulness. First, we need to have the awareness that perfectionist thinking is occurring. Labeling it as perfectionism allows us to pop out of the auto-pilot and be present. With this new present moment awareness we now have a choice that we didn’t have before. We can choose to ask ourselves this question or continue with the rumination.
  2. Take Time-Out – Michelle also suggests that we “take some time-out” and not to just do more “stuff” but to do things that you would not normally give yourself time to do. Such as take a nap, meditate, do yoga, finger paint, whatever. As many of you know, I conducted a national research study that found that just taking 5 minutes of mindfulness out each day had a significant positive effect with stress reduction and well-being.
  3. Label and Redirect the Critical Mind – She reminds us that perfectionism comes from and overly critical mind. Once again, the practice of mindfulness and labeling can really come in handy here with supporting us in dis-identifying from these nasty self-judgments, letting them be, and redirecting our minds to something that is going to be more effective and supportive to us in the moment.

Neuroscientists have found that how and what we pay attention to actually shapes our brains. With a bit of mindfulness we may be able to shift these circuits to reduce this painful Mind Trap of perfectionism.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

You Vs. Perfectionism: 3 Little Secrets to Overcoming this Demon

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2009). You Vs. Perfectionism: 3 Little Secrets to Overcoming this Demon. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 20, 2018, from


Last updated: 2 Oct 2009
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Oct 2009
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