Newswise — Holidays are a time for family and friends to gather together to have a wonderful meal and catch up after a busy year. However, some may be tempted to spend weeks, or even a month, in advance planning the perfect holiday gathering.

Organizing a party or hosting a family dinner doesn’t have to be flawless, just relaxing and enjoyable. Here is how you can banish the perfectionist in you during the holidays:

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 low mood when their standards or goals are not met. •Perfectionism may affect people’s functioning by causing them to spend too long on 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 centre piece, ask yourself questions to challenge your thoughts: •“What if I just use the place settings and dining décor items from last year. Will anyone really notice?” •“Does it really matter if I don’t have the perfect holiday table setting for my guests?” •“Do I really 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.


Dr. Martin AntonyProfessor and Chair, Department of PsychologyRyerson UniversityOwww.martinantony.comAuthor of When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism (2009, New Harbinger Publications)

Not available after Dec. 21, 2012