What you can do

Recognise your perfectionism

Acknowledge it and how it impacts on you. Challenging your perfectionist tendencies requires a change in the way you think and do things. This is never easy. The first thing to do is to stop and assess your situation, then take definite steps to change.

Set realistic goals

Try to get an overview of your situation and ask yourself what you really want. Keep this in mind when you set your goals and be realistic about what you can achieve. Check with a close friend or a counsellor whether they think your goals are realistic and achievable.

Value the process as much as the result

Break your big goals into smaller tasks for an ongoing sense of achievement. Try to appreciate the learning, thinking and research as much as your final grade.

Keep things in perspective

Step back and try to be aware of any obsessive behaviour. You may, for example, find yourself sacrificing everything to get a HD in an essay or exam. What about the other important things in your life? Learn to distinguish which tasks are important and give the greatest return – put effort into those tasks.

Acknowledge and learn from your mistakes

Remember – no mistakes, no progress. Be open with yourself and others about the mistakes you've made. Value people's comments and criticism and learn from them.

Be a self-supporter

Turn self-criticism into affirmation and encouragement. Instead of backing away from something because you feel you can't do it well enough, say to yourself, "I'll do the best I can in these circumstances" or "I know this isn't the perfect answer but at least I’ll get some marks still." If you are feeling over-anxious about something, ask yourself, “Am I expecting too much? What are the consequences of not achieving perfection? What else is important?”

Mindfulness

Mindfulness can help you be aware of the damaging thoughts in your head and help you make the choice to let them go. 

Try these options to manage perfectionism

Support online

The Centre for Clinical Intervention has a useful information package designed to help you understand what is helpful and unhelpful about being a perfectionist.

Apps that help

To learn techniques to help you get some relief from a busy mind, try Headspace or Smiling Mind.