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How to Let Your Inner Perfectionist Take a Break

Written By Leandra Lehmann

  • ambition,
  • mental health,
  • perfectionism,
  • productivity,
  • self-care
Fredi Model on a playground making silly face

Credit: Jason Weiss for Fredi

Sometimes you need let your inner perfectionist take a break— without sacrificing your ambition.

If you’re anything like me, there are times when I am plagued with guilt when I take a break at work, or when I choose to Netflix & chill for the third weekend in a row. Thoughts fill my mind like “I could be doing more,” “I’m not doing enough,  “my friends are out seeing new restaurant and shows while I’m at home, “that couple is out traveling the world again,”Good old FOMO and comparisons flood in.

How can we as women deal with these external and internal pressures? How can we cope without feeling guilt when we do tune out for a little while?

"There are times when I am plagued with guilt when I take a break at work, or when I choose to Netflix & chill for the third weekend in a row."

Here are some ideas to help you quiet your inner perfectionist.

  1. Reframe what taking a break means.

    It’s important to see breaks and relaxation differently- not as indulgent escapes, but as an intentional effort and deliberate choice. You’re turning yourself off to be more on later. Tell yourself: “taking a break IS work.” It contributes to the ultimate goal of energized productivity and invigorating success. Other societies have realized that slowing down can lead to productivity. We can too!

  2. Think about the long term.

    Though Netflix & Chilling, “boring” nights in, or missing a work event for a friend event, may mean not advancing your career in the short-term, learning new skills, meeting new people, doing new or fun activities, slowing down and nourishing yourself may help you in the long run. You could have more energy for creative ideas and innovation. Tell yourself: “Slowing down and resting my brain will help me be more productive and inspired later.”

  3. Have compassion for yourself.

    These are trying times. Social media stimuli, political upheaval, hate speech & acts, devastating climate change impacts. Even if you have the most chill job ever, we are bombarded by a lot every day that may affect us viscerally and unconsciously- in ways we might not even be aware of! We may find ourselves feeling tired and not have an identifiable excuse. Well, these are all good excuses! It’s more important than ever to listen to what our bodies need to recharge.

  4. This is a hard one, but try not to compare what you need to what others need.

    Your nights in doesn’t mean you’re boring if all your friends are at a show. Your lunchtime walk does not need to mean you’re being unproductive or lazy if your colleagues all work without stopping. Others may be able to travel the world, go out every night, or be constantly on at work. You don’t know how they feel at the end of all that and they might just be wired differently. You are wired the way you are and need what you need. Try to accept yourself where you’re at.

  5. Take breaks

    Leave work to go on a walk, schedule a massage, take a nap, turn off the news, turn off your work (or personal) phone at night, go to yoga, doodle on a notebook, set “breathe” or meditation reminders on your phone or watch, journal, or watch a show. Do break activities that feel right for you and know you need different things at different times to feel re-energized and motivated to work productively.

What do you do to take breaks at home or throughout the work day?  Do you experience any of the feelings I mentioned above? What barriers do you face? What and who helps?

Leandra Lehmann

Leandra Lehmann is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist and Art Therapist who believes creativity, mindfulness, physical health, community connection and self compassion are critical to promoting holistic healing. Her extensive community-based work with families and caregivers, and time as Head of People Ops in a start-up, informs her diverse interests which include trauma, social justice, women’s rights, stress management, self-care, and relationship building. She also draws from her experiences as a Third-Culture Kid from the Philippines and her passion for travel.