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7 Steps to Dealing With Perfectionism During the Holidays

Image of young girl in angel costume. Raleigh Psychotherapy, Counseling, perfectionism

Thanksgiving, the official beginning of the holiday season, will be here in three days. Do you feel like you are already overwhelmed by everything that HAS to be done? Are you feeling like you are behind before you’ve even begun?

One reason could be that part of you is making demands that are unrealistic.


Everyone else sees you as organized and able to accomplish many things. They see you as successful and respect you. What you see, however, are all the ways you need to improve, what you messed up, and all that is left unfinished.

You cannot accept their compliments and high opinion of you because you know your secret failures. They will not agree with you when you point out what you see as shortcomings. All your accomplishments are negated in your own eyes because you know what a failure you are.

With the holidays, these feelings of failure and stress are worse because the demands and expectations of the season are so high. You are already working more, compromising your standards, and still it is not enough.


Perhaps, you are working with expectations and standards which are too high. Maybe, you are a perfectionist and don’t even realize it. Before you quit reading because you think this can’t be you, hold on. You may be asking how you can be a perfectionist when you know all the things you’re doing wrong. Actually, one of the characteristics of a perfectionist is seeing all your imperfections and focusing on them to the point that they overshadow your accomplishments.


Being a perfectionist does not mean that you do everything right. It means holding yourself to an impossible standard. Even when others consider your work excellent, you are dissatisfied and criticize yourself. You are brutal with yourself when you make a mistake, or simply think that you did. The standard you live by is the “mythical perfect.”


There is value in not being perfect. In my blog article, The Value of Being Imperfect, I talk about the advantages of imperfection. With that in mind you can do something to change the impossible standards you believe are necessary. In the short term, it will feel frightening and be hard. In the long run, it will free you to be more of who you are and to enjoy life and the holidays more.


  1. Make a list of the traditions and activities that you believe must happen during the holidays

  2. For each, identify who started the tradition.

  3. Ask yourself if you like each tradition and activity.

  4. Rate each item according to how much you like them

  5. With the help of a friend, estimate how much time each one will take before they are “good enough” to satisfy you.

  6. If the list is long, pick your favorites.

  7. For everything else, delegate. If there are things that must be done that are not on your list, ask someone to be responsible for them.

This exercise is not easy and will take some courage. Change takes time and support. Be patient, kind and tolerant with yourself. Even if you do not make any changes this year, simply going so far as to make the list will clarify what activities you like and which ones to continue next year.

Do you need help making these changes? Call me at (919)881-2001, I can help.

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