Progress Over Perfection

The Office of Student Wellness recently hosted a virtual event featuring guest speaker Dr. Angie O’Gieblyn, who stressed the importance of striving for excellence rather than perfection. O’Gieblyn is a professor, researcher, mental health counselor and above all else a recovering perfectionist.

O’Gieblyn mentioned that to combat perfectionism, one must understand what perfection truly means. By definition, a perfectionist is a person who strives for flawlessness and sets up ridiculously high expectations.

Attendees learned from O’Gieblyn that there is a difference between striving for excellence and striving for perfection. Striving for excellence is setting attainable goals to be met realistically. In contrast, striving for perfection sets unreachable standards driven by the fear of shame, blame and criticism from others.

“The world will always tell you to do more,” said O’Gieblyn, affiliate faculty mental health counselor at Northwestern.

Perfectionism places one’s identity and self-worth in the ability to perform. To overcome this mentally taxing attitudes, one must develop more self-compassion.

Taking online assessments are an easy way to learn from these flaws. Tests like the “Almost Perfect Scale” and “Self Compassion Scale” online will help determine life areas that need improvement.

A few active tips O’Gieblyn mentioned for struggling perfectionists to take on are asking questions like:

• “What is one area of my life where I know I set unrealistic expectations for myself?”

• “How can I work on this?”

• “What is one thing I can do this week to be kinder to myself?”

Counteracting negative thoughts with visual reminders is another active step to take when battling perfectionism. Putting quotes, pictures and affirmations around the house can help change one’s mindset into believing that “you” are doing enough.

If affirmations are not enough, O’Gieblyn recommends talking to a trusted friend to help set the record straight. When saying things like, “I should be doing more,” tell friends to remind you to stop talking to yourself that way.

To further understand the roots of perfection and learn more personalized strategies to combat it reach out to sources such as the Lynn Counseling Center by calling (561) 237-7237.

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