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3 ways to overcome academic perfectionism


Thursday, October 30, 2014

With final exams quickly approaching, the pressure to do well may feel more all-consuming than ever. For self-proclaimed perfectionists, this time of year can be especially taxing. However, there are ways for students to overcome their self-doubt and insatiable standards so they can avoid unnecessary stress. Follow these steps to getting through finals in stride.

1. Let it go
Perfection is a great goal to strive for, but it's not a practical expectation. You may notice that when you're fixated on an ideal outcome, you're less likely to spend time on anything else, and other facets of your life suffer as a result. While you shouldn't submit a piece of work that are not happy with, it's important to find a balance between creating quality work and meeting deadlines.

2. Focus on what you have already done
Perfectionists tend to fall into the trap of focusing on what can be done better. To combat that instinct, The Muse, a career guidance Web site, explained that it's important to focus on your past successes. Try creating a list of everything you've done well in the past, no matter the size or importance of the task. They can range from earning a good grade on an essay to winning a widely competitive scholarship. Listing your achievements is a great way of realizing self worth and trusting your abilities—two qualities that perfectionists constantly question. Don't rely on compliments or other types of recognition from others to lend validity to your actions. Set a standard for yourself—reward yourself for reaching it but do not punish yourself if you fall short.

3. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone
Many self-identified perfectionists often accept only those tasks that they feel confident they can complete well. This forces them to stay within the confines of what they already know, which stifles growth. PBS columnist Senia Maymin explained that overcoming perfectionism involves accepting that success is achieved by taking small steps and welcoming change. You'll need to fail before you can succeed at something, and use those mistakes as learning experiences that can guide you to your end goal. This could mean taking an especially challenging course or choosing to present on an interesting topic that you're not necessarily familiar with. Whatever it is, see it as an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than a potential failure.

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