The problem with perfectionists, but by no means not the only one (Yes, I’m repeating a line from one of my other posts about perfectionism.), is that they become fixated upon their failures. Those failures may be real. They may be imagined. They may be small, such as forgetting to send an email or to make a phone call. They may be large, such as not caring for shipping arrangements for an upcoming trade show or not paying a bill on time. It doesn’t matter. In the mind of a perfectionist, a small failure is or becomes equal with a large failure.
The problem with the outlook is that it isn’t factual. Maybe the perfectionist did neglect to make shipping arrangements or to pay a bill. What were the circumstances surrounding that neglect? Did the perfectionist know she was responsible for making the arrangements? Had she been made aware of the bill’s deadline? Had she ever been responsible for either of those things in the past?
Another problem with equating small failures with large ones is that it isn’t beneficial. The more the perfectionist dwells upon her failings – supposed or real, large or small – the harder it is for her to overcome them. She becomes stuck in the downward spiral of failure and accusation until she comes to believe that she is a failure in everything: in life, in work, in love – everything.
Once the perfectionist realizes what is happening – that she isn’t looking at the situation objectively or that she is gravitating toward the downward spiral – she still has to find a way to overcome her usual tendencies. Doing so is hard because everything in her wants to cast blame. It’s hard because she’s relying on emotions rather than on truth. It’s only when she begins to embrace the truth over her emotions that she can begin to win one of her battles against perfectionism, to cut herself some slack.
How do you escape downward spirals?