Are You a Perfectionist? Tips to overcome Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a character trait that you are not born with. It is acquired during the period of your growing up starting from childhood. It can be overcome with right strategy and persistence. All you need is a desire to overcome this tendency, persistence, and perseverance. First, we must understand what perfectionism is and how it becomes a character trait.

Many high achievers have a personality trait called perfectionism. They are not satisfied with the quality of their work and in order to get approval from self and others, they try to achieve perfection in everything they do. They are often known to keep working on the project over and over again till they are satisfied. To some extent, perfectionism can be good as it adds quality to your work but if it becomes an obsession and you cannot relax until you achieve your high standard, there is a need to balance it so that you can live a stress free life. Too many demands on your self can increase your stress level and cause health problems. Perfectionist people lose their sleep, cannot enjoy the moment, worry all the time, and become anxiety prone because they are too hard on themselves.

Perfectionism is a trait that one acquires from the way you are brought up and kind of social interaction you get from your peers, teachers, authority figures, and family members. Perfectionist parents tend to raise children who become perfectionist as adults. As a child, sometimes your parents did not get you enough credit for doing well in your report card and expected you to have all A’s otherwise you are no good. This kind of pressure tends to create stress and demand on children and they begin to evaluate themselves from the perspective of their parents. If they fail to achieve their level of expectation, they berate themselves and this damages their self esteem. Many children develop a burn out syndrome and they are unable to relax until they get their desired standards in ever thing they do. As adults, they practice the same philosophy and often times, it is seen that they are unable to meet deadlines and they struggle to put their best efforts forth because they drive themselves crazy for not doing the job right. They will destroy their work and attempt again and again from the beginning to the end until they are satisfied fully.

It is important to bring your perfectionism to a balance. It is alright to expect to do a good job but if it affects your mental health and constantly gives you anxiety, then there is room for improvement. Dr. Steven J. Handlin, a clinical psychologist, calls this kind of attitude, “never -enough thinking” Perfection is a fantasy. How do we make the change in this kind of perfectionist attitude?

First of all, you need to be aware of your tendency to be a perfectionist. Recognizing and understanding this is the first step toward change. It is normal to strive for excellence but excellence is not enough for perfectionist. They impose demands on themselves, like baby must be toilet trained at twelve months, all pictures have to be perfectly aligned on the wall, and the closet should have all the hangers facing one direction. While they strive for perfection, they often fall short of excellence and lose the joy of accomplishment. They deprive themselves of the satisfaction of accomplishment and each time they fail to reach perfection, their self image becomes weaker. It is also important to recognize that perfectionism is a self defeating trait. Moreover, you also need to decide that you will aim for excellence instead of perfection, and try to understand that “good enough” is good enough. Try to reach for this goal and refrain from putting a strict demand on yourself.

Once you realize the above mentioned ideas, it is important to turn them into positive reinforcements. Write down your affirmations on a piece of paper and acknowledge that perfectionism is an impossible dream, it is also a self defeating pattern and from now on you will strive for excellence and be satisfied with the “good enough.” Do not try to put off things to do at the last minute because you will never be satisfied with your first attempt and you will be more frustrated that you are unable to meet your deadline. Once you have planned and organized your time, you will be able to accomplish what you want without stressing yourself.

Another strategy to overcome perfectionism is to practice the “ACTING AS IF” principle. Writer has explained this concept in detail in other blogs. Once you act as if you are not a perfectionist and begin to derive pleasure from whatever jobs you are doing, you will become more relaxed in your attitude and will not lose sleep over minor things. Acting As If gives powerful messages to your subconscious mind and programs you to achieve what you want in a subtle manner. Your actions towards your goals will impart positive messages to your subconscious mind and you are more likely to get desired results with this refreshed attitude.

Also, notice your automatic self talk. Are you using terms like,” should”, “ought to”, and “must”? If yes, then subconsciously you are putting a demand on yourself and will not be able to have a relaxed attitude while undertaking the assignment or project. These terms put a heavy demand on you and are often absolute in nature. Furthermore, try to make a distinction between a demanding “should” and a desirable “should”. It is okay to strive for desirable should but trying to attempt for a demanding should, will increase your stress level and cause more let downs when you cannot achieve what you are striving for. Writer will refer the readers to read the blog on Decreasing Emotional Stress with the use of Rational Emotive Therapy on this website, to get more details on how to challenge irrational beliefs, and adopt a more adaptive attitude. When you are at peace, your energy level be different and you will also have more enthusiasm in doing your assignment or project. This will also ensure better results and also facilitate satisfaction with the outcome of your project or assignment.

While you are undertaking your assignment or project, it is possible to fall in the perfectionist trap and you will notice that you are beginning to focus on the minor details of your assignment and waste time. If this happens, try to recognize this as soon as it happens and do not allow yourself to fall in this trap. Immediately write down why the perfectionist approach was necessary and what would happen if you did not do it. You need to establish a new behavior pattern in this attempt of overcoming your perfectionism. Once you have thought through what you were doing and realized that perfectionist approach would have made no difference to the final outcome of your assignment, you will be reinforcing your good enough thinking versus your perfectionist personality trait. You need to take a disciplined approach to modify your behavior and then you will see the results happening. When you give yourself positive reinforcement by becoming more organized and systematic, you will feel more satisfied and also feel accomplished. Perfectionism loses its self defeating tendency once you realize that good enough is truly good enough and far more fulfilling than the impossible goal of perfectionism. Let yourself experience the joy of accomplishment. Once you have cultivated the habit, you will apply it in all your domains and become happier. Your stress level will be low and you will not be stressing yourself to achieve the impossible goal of perfection.
Hypnosis can address perfectionism and reduce anxiety. Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.


  1. […] you will also have more enthusiasm in doing your assignment or project,” she writes on her blog, Cognitive Healing. “This will also ensure better results and also facilitate satisfaction with the outcome of your […]

    August 5, 2014
  2. Pasha said:

    Thank you for this article. I am struggling to defeat my perfectionism.

    December 3, 2014
  3. NeEddra James said:

    This article is really helpful. I’ve struggled with perfectionism since I was a teenager and currently find myself battling it out with myself as I clumsily get my bearings in a new job. I’m really grateful for the practical reminders you offer here. In particular, I think your article helps me with three things, 1) noticing from whom’s perspective I am evaluating mysel, 2) intentionally acknowledging what I accomplished and 3) asking myself what would happen if I didn’t attempt to do things perfectly. These are all excellent practical things I can do to retrain my brain and behavioral patters. Thanks for that!

    May 25, 2016

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