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SOME WAYS TO STOP BEING A HOLIDAY PERFECTIONIST

If the tree has to be decorated just so, the table set with perfectly-matched dishes and table linens, the presents wrapped with crisp corners and beautifully tied ribbons and you spend weeks planning the perfect family gathering, you may be a holiday perfectionist. Here is something you'll find astonishing to learn: Your family's Christmas doesn't have to be flawless, just relaxing and enjoyable. Dr. Martin Antony, chairman of the psychology department at Ryerson University in Toronto and author of "When Perfect Isn't Good Enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism," has five suggestions for banishing the perfectionist inside you--at least for the holidays.

How to have a happy holiday without being perfect:

1. Know the difference between healthy high standards and being a perfectionist.

  • There is nothing wrong with wanting to do things well; however, having high standards is not the same thing as perfectionism.
  • Perfectionism refers to a tendency to have excessively high standards -- standards that cannot possibly be met.
  • Perfectionists often experience intense anxiety, shame, anger or an unhappy mood when their standards or goals are not met.
  • Perfectionism may affect people's functioning by causing them to spend too much time on certain tasks or to avoid tasks altogether.

2. Take a step back. Consider your perfectionist thoughts and shift your thinking to be more realistic and balanced. If you are convinced that you need to have that 12-piece expensive dining set with matching napkins, tablecloth and centerpiece, ask yourself questions to challenge your thoughts:

  • "What if I just use the place settings and dining decor items from last year? Will anyone really notice?"
  • "Does it matter if I don't have the perfect holiday table setting for my guests?"
  • "Do I need to spend that extra time and money to create an elaborate menu, or can I ask my guests to bring wine, appetizers and dessert?" Remember, just because you believe that everything has to be perfect, doesn't mean that your belief is true! Your guests may also want to contribute to the dinner, which takes the pressure off you so you can spend more time socializing.

3. Allow yourself to be imperfect.
Instead of blowing your budget on holiday decor to make your home look like a magazine spread, just keep it simple and stress-free. By allowing some flexibility in the way you do things, you will learn to be more comfortable with minor imperfections and unexpected changes to your plans.

4. Evaluate whether you may be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Because perfectionism is associated with standards and expectations that are impossible to meet, perfectionists run the risk of having events not turn out as desired and therefore develop the perception that they have "reason" to worry. Accept your inability to control the outcomes, but recognize that you can control your reaction.

5. Seek treatment if your perfectionism is a problem.
if perfectionism leads to significant problems with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or difficulties in your relationships, you may want to seek expert help from an experienced mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Your family doctor is a good place to start if you are looking for a referral. 

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