You are good enough! 3 Tips on how to deal with perfectionism.

As a student coach, I interact with a lot of students, each of them with their own challenges, personal situations, and background. Although all of these students and their stories are unique, there are quite a few recurring themes that I discuss with most of them, such as stress, feeling gloomy, anxiety, loneliness, and quality of sleep. However, there is one specific theme that pops up most: perfectionism.

A lot of students that I talk to seem to be rather disappointed with themselves. Whenever I ask them why, they tell me that they often don’t feel ‘good enough’ – not good enough as a person, not performing well enough, not believing in themselves, or feeling as if they don’t deserve ‘it’ (whatever ‘it’ may be).

I’m talking about young and ambitious people who are in the prime of their lives, who often have very dynamic and challenging lives. Students who are able to enjoy a good education and are working hard during their parttime job in their spare time. It affects me. More than anything I would like to tell them to be proud of themselves, that they’re doing great, and how they have already achieved so much. But that is not the purpose or goal of my sessions with these students. The goal is to get them to think for themselves, and to zoom in on whatever makes them unsatisfied with themselves or their performances. It is about talking a closer look at the underlying factors that are influencing the constant feeling of disappointment. Trying to gain new insights that will lead to new perspectives.

This can be exciting at times, because a lot of students believe that letting go of their current beliefs or by trying to be ‘less a perfectionist’ will come at the expense of their performance. In most cases, however, the opposite appears to be true: they actually experience less stress, more rest, gain more confidence, are able to enjoy the process more, and are capable to be proud and satisfied with who they are and what they do.

Tips to deal with perfectionism:

  1. Don’t just ask yourself how you can do better. This causes you to focus too much on the things that aren’t going well or aren’t up to expectations. It will lead you to feeling disappointed or feeling like a failure. Yes, you are allowed to be critical of your own performances in order to learn and grow. But try to be truly honest with yourself and also reflect on the things that are going well. By doing so, you will create a better balance between being too demanding of yourself, having a healthy self-image and creating more self-confidence.
  2. Keep track of a ‘positivity diary’. Every day before going to bed, write down three things that you enjoyed during the day. We often tend to only remember the negative moments of the day. By keeping this diary, you will train yourself to become more aware of the positive moments as well. Whether it’s kicking ass during a presentation or that nice cup of coffee you had, just write it down.
  3. Be kind to yourself and work on your self-compassion. Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. The students I talk with are often very hard on themselves by setting the bar too high and/or demeaning themselves. Whenever I ask them what they would tell their best friend in a similar situation, they often respond in a more compassionate manner. They would tell their friend that they are doing great, to keep on trying and to not give up.
    By treating yourself as your own best friend you will start to grow more confidence, have more faith in yourself, feel more energetic, create a better self-image, and experience a more enjoyable student life!