Perfect is the Enemy of Good Mental Health

Anonymous: My to-do list is so long every day at work, and I’m not getting through it. Sometimes I rush things, so I worry about making mistakes. But if I do things well, I worry about missing deadlines and causing problems for my coworkers. How can I handle this stress?

Suggestions: In our fast-paced world, juggling multiple roles and responsibilities at work can often lead to overwhelming feelings of anxiety. You have placed immense pressure on yourself to be both productive and perfect, which becomes a roadblock to your well-being. It’s important to remember that perfection is not necessary. 

“We don’t have to be perfect,” explained Toronto-based clinical psychologist, Dr. Natasha Williams. “Things don’t have to be perfect. Being able to let go of that perfectionism is one of the biggest ways through that discomfort.”

Instead, focus on doing your best and accepting that mistakes are a natural part of growth and learning. Allow yourself the freedom to make progress rather than striving for flawlessness. It’s also important to set realistic expectations for yourself. 

“We make a to-do list so long that we set ourselves up for failure sometimes,” said Williams. “We can plan our day. It’s great to have a plan. But, because we don’t get everything done, it doesn’t mean we’re a failure or that something is wrong with us.”

Rather than viewing incomplete tasks as shortcomings, prioritize what’s most essential and accept that some tasks can be moved to the next day.

“We can say we’ve done what we were able to do today and ask what we can pass over until tomorrow. It’s not a detrimental situation.”

Reaching out for support is also crucial during times of change and increased responsibilities. Take a moment to reflect on the individuals around you who can provide guidance, offer a helping hand or simply lend a listening ear. Use your network of friends, family and co-workers for support and comfort.

“We feel like we have to juggle all of these roles and responsibilities. Putting them on our shoulders. We often feel like we have to do all of these things and do them well—or perfectly—and that ends up becoming a roadblock.”

Finally, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with the same understanding and support you’d offer a friend. Recognize that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times and that it doesn’t diminish your value or capabilities. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small, and acknowledge that progress is more important than perfection.

You don’t have to face everything alone. Imperfection is a natural part of life. By setting realistic expectations, practicing self-compassion and building your support network, you can alleviate stress throughout your day. 

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