Do You Suffer From Perfectionism?

November 13, 2013 Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Do you ever say things to yourself like: I should have been able to do this. I will never get this right. If I was more like them, I’d feel better? These are insecure and unhealthy thoughts that many professionals would call perfectionistic thinking patterns. These thoughts are like bullies, pushing down the positives, discounting the facts, and making you feel like you will never be “good enough” no matter what you accomplish.

Identifying Perfectionism, Perfectionistic Thinking

Perfectionism and perfectionistic thinking patterns lead to self-doubt and can collapse self-esteem. Learn how to get rid of perfectionism.According to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), recognizing your own mistaken beliefs is the first and most powerful step in change. These anxious thoughts often center around what you lack, comparing yourself to others, focused on future events or fear of failure. Awareness of these thoughts allows you to stop, assess, talk back and create a more realistic, logical statement that builds you up, not brings you down.

Reality Check: Perfect Isn't Possible

Is your worth determined by materialistic goods, accomplishments, or achievements?

Reality Check: You don’t die with your shoes or your savings account. These things don't matter in the long run. Those who are on their death bed recount their relationships with others, life lessons, and their impact on the world. When you place emphasis on clothing, cars, houses, professional titles or awards, it distracts you from your inner truth, the real you. Temporary happiness may come from these things, but it’s likely just temporary.

If you find yourself saying "When I have _____ (car, ideal weight, apartment, outfit, job title), I will feel good about myself." Ask yourself where did this belief come from? Is it really true or will I feel better for a moment and then find something else to fixate on?

Do you assume others are judging you? Do you care too much about what others think or need others' approval to feel good about yourself?

Reality Check: You can't control anyone's thoughts. You can only control your own. If you try your best and your intentions are positive, that "should" be enough. The problem is many become hardwired from early-on to rely on others' opinions to create their self-worth. Ask yourself, "Why do I care what others think? Is this something I was brought up to believe matters?"

The most confident and self-aware people put their needs and interests first. For example, say you want to take a spiritual yoga class and your friends think it's nuts. The confident person will accept that it is their opinion and still do what they want to do. They let those judgments and comparisons go.

Are your expectations higher for yourself than they would be for someone else?
Learn to recognize and overcome impossible perfection-fueled and unhealthy thinking styles with these simple tipsReality Check: You may have been brought up to think, if I work hard and set high expectations, I will be happy. Let’s really think about this. Look at confident, self-assured, happy people you know. Do they feel satisfied with where they are and what they have accomplished or do they quickly move to the next project? Most people who have high self-esteem and feel content with a variety of aspects in their life, set expectations that they can meet and then reassess. Chasing something far from your reach creates anxiety and negative thoughts, which can make you feel less confident.

How to Deal with Perfectionism, Perfectionistic Thinking

Recognize and overcome impossible perfection-fueled and unhealthy thinking styles with counter statements:

Instead of: I should be as better at this.

Replace with: I am doing the best I can given the circumstances.

Instead of: I must do this right or else they will think I am incapable.

Replace with: Everyone makes mistakes and needs help sometimes, I am human.

Instead of: I am going to mess up, if I cant do it right I might as well give up.

Replace with: If I take a moment and break it down into small steps I may be able to do feel more confident and focused.

If you find yourself stuck, stop focusing on the big stuff. Look at the positives in your life. You are surrounded by so much good, but our society conditions us to always want to be perfect or need the next best thing. The truth is, when you can reflect on past positives and achievements and what you have right now, your thoughts will become much more positive and your need for perfectionism will be gone.

Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

APA Reference
Roberts, E. (2013, November 13). Do You Suffer From Perfectionism?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Emily is a psychotherapist, she is intensively trained in DBT, she the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are. You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

william wallace
December, 5 2013 at 1:51 am

Perfectionism is the natural goal to be achieved.
One can suffer from the lack of such / if such is ones HEARTS desire it be one will not be complete untill the goal achieved. How to achieve the goal of perfectionism ? Not a problem in truth it but the simplist thing in the world that be achieved.
The problem is not the solution / the problem is accepting as putting the solution into practice.
PS I should add in true self you are perfect the problem is in not knowing the true self however that's very easy to be put to rights thus don't fret / enjoy life it's the mother of all gifts.. every second should be of joy.

Coleen Harper
November, 14 2013 at 1:56 pm

Well said

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