Managing Perfectionism

A field of yellow tulips with 1 red tulip standing out

Perfectionism is something very common amongst neurodiverse individuals. This can be due to many reasons, such as the desire to pay close attention to details, or using it as a way to navigate through a world that can feel confusing, unkind, and unpredictable.

Signs of perfectionism

  • Tendency to become highly anxious, angry or upset about making mistakes
  • Chronic procrastination and difficulty completing tasks
  • Easily frustrated and gives up easily
  • Chronic fear of embarrassment or humiliation
  • Overly cautious and thorough in tasks (for example, spending 3 hours on work that should take 20 minutes)
  • Tries to improve things by rewriting
  • Frequent catastrophic reactions or meltdowns when things don’t go perfectly or as expected
  • Refusal to try new things and risk making mistakes

Ways to manage perfectionism

  • Talk with your inner voice about perfectionism
    Label it as a small voice that fills you with dread about something going wrong. Think about the emotions that this voice can bring on and the feelings within the body. Once you start to recognise that it is a perfection thought you can start to manage it better.
  • Learn positive talking (affirmations)
    These are very powerful statements that you repeat every day. Doing this embeds them in to the subconscious mind which then influences the fight-or-flight response, encouraging calmer reactions. Many successful people use affirmations daily.
  • Notice black & white thinking
    When we are anxious often we see there is only one possible outcome that is acceptable and anything less than this will have dire consequences. Use comic strip drawings to explore these thoughts. For example if you feel you must get a particular outcome or it’s the end of the world, then draw it out. Show what will happen, what will the consequences be? Comic strips are very useful as you can play out an event and refer back at any time.
  • No one is perfect
  • When you have made a mistake – own it. Making mistakes is perfectly natural and normal. If there is something you don’t understand or know the answer to, then don’t be too proud to ask for help.
  • See value in wellbeing
    Being able to see that being happy with how you are as a person is far more important than being the best at everything. Don’t let yourself become stressed by striving for perfection so that you become too overloaded and are mentally not strong enough to get out of bed and go to work. You are doing the best you can with the resources that you have to hand. Take at least an hour a day just for you – read a book, play a game or have a nap.