In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, VETgirl’s Chief Happiness Officer, Jeannine Moga, MA, MSW, LCSW, clinical veterinary social worker, discusses how we veterinary professionals often struggle with being a perfectionist? Here, learn a few tips on how to tame unhealthy perfectionism.

This is quite common in veterinary medicine. While most perfectionists identify as detail-oriented, self-disciplined, and precise, those of us in the unhealthy camp tend to struggle with all-or-nothing thinking, catastrophizing, and feedback: anything less than “awesome” feels like profound personal failure.

If this rings a bell for you, take a deep breath and try a few of these tricks:

1) Reality check your standards with someone you trust. If the bar is almost impossible to attain by that person’s judgment, set a more realistic goal.

2) Watch for rigid, negative thinking (inner dialogue containing the words should, always and never). Reframe these thoughts in more flexible terms.

3) Engage in hypothesis testing. “What’s the worst that can happen if ________?” is a great question to explore because our fears – including fear of failure — are often much worse than reality.

4) Adopt a growth mindset. Struggle is the path to strength and resilience. Remember that not a single successful person has ever sailed through challenge without falling down.

5) Limit worry time and rumination. The more we worry about hitting the mark, the less agile our brains become. The more we ponder past struggles, the more depressed we will feel. Limit rehashing and rehearsing and focus on the present moment.

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