The Problems with Perfectionism

Perfectionism is often touted as an admirable trait. The idea that you’re the kind of person who thinks good is never good enough, is something many people aspire to. The reality is that perfectionism has no place in our lives or the workplace. It distracts us from effectively managing the tasks in our lives and prevents the necessary balance that we need to be healthy. So how do you navigate the line between being a perfectionist and being the best, you can be? Read on.

Avoiding Perfectionism

Why Perfectionism is a Trap

On the surface, perfectionism touts itself as crucial for success. In the words of Voltaire “perfect is the enemy of the good”. Laboring over minor details, rehearsing a presentation over and over, getting worked up over minor tasks, etc….are all symptoms of perfectionism. Perfectionism derails the natural way that humans work. It turns unimportant projects into herculean tasks and important ones into insurmountable assignments.

Self-Awareness and Confidence

Perfectionism stems from two things. A lack of confidence and an unhealthy mental position of yourself in relation to others. When we doubt our abilities, we over-compensate. Struggling to find worth in what you do, creates the need for perfectionism. It reflects a belief that you’re not good enough on your own and therefore your projects and actions must be scrutinized to facilitate a worth-while outcome.

Likewise, that thinking positions the thinker as less than those they are surrounded by. The need for perfectionism is less about producing the best product and more about trying to create something they feel is superior to what others are producing. Not only is this not healthy for you, but it also creates an unnecessary sense of competition between you and others.

Setting Realistic Goals

A way to fall into perfectionism is by setting unrealistic goals and expectations of yourself. Reign in that desire by making smaller goals. For example, if you want your professional life to be perfect, don’t stress yourself out about it. Rather than creating the perfect presentation, break it down into smaller, actionable goals. Allocate specific amounts of time to each goal and move on after that time has elapsed. That’ll force you to work productively and move on to the next task. In the end, that’ll ensure that you finish the project in a healthy time frame rather than falling behind and overwhelming yourself in an attempt to get it finished. Likewise, when you are setting goals in your personal life, do not desire to be an overachiever. For example, if you are aspiring to become an avid fitness enthusiast, avoid spending long hours lifting heavy weights at the gym in the hopes of becoming a perfectionist. Instead, consider allocating your time wisely to different activities that could improve your physical health. Dedicate an hour to the gym to lift heavy weights, an hour to swim at your backyard pool (if you do not have one, then finding a pool builder and getting one built might be a good idea), an hour to prepare healthy meals and consume, and an hour to just relax and do nothing. This can ensure that you do not overexert yourself in the process to prove yourself a perfect human being who can build great health just in a week.

Trust Others

Another facet of perfectionism is a lack of trust in others. Perfectionists hold themselves to this unrealistic standard because they don’t believe that others can provide the same quality of input as they do. In life and at work, trying to do everything yourself is never going to work. We are social creatures and live in a social environment. Working with others is the only way to be as successful as you can be. Learn to delegate and ask for help. If you’re uncomfortable with that, start small. Once people earn your trust, then you can ask them to assist you in more responsibilities. As you continue to do this, you’ll begin to acclimate to working with others and see how taking on everything by yourself simply doesn’t work.

Perfection Doesn’t Exist

Contrary to the beliefs of perfectionists everywhere, perfection doesn’t exist. What is perfect is always changing and is different from person to person. You may work tirelessly to create something you think is perfect for it to fall short in the eyes of someone else. Therefore, hanging onto the idea of perfectionism will only cause you heartache. Do your best, be proud of your work, and be confident, that is the closest we will ever get to actual perfection.

Progress Never Perfection

Rather than perfection, we should be focused on progress. Progress is measurable and attainable. It keeps us working hard and motivated while staying true to the fact that we should never stop improving. This shift in thinking reframes “never good enough” to “getting better every day”. A subtle reframing makes for a positive mindset rather than a negative one


Perfectionism is not a virtue, but a mistake. While you should hold yourself to a high standard, you must treat yourself reasonably and respectfully. By emphasizing progress instead, create a positive and healthy way of moving forward in life. Use these tips on perfectionism to construct balance. This way you can be your best self.

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