How to Stop Being a Perfectionist
People need to stop being perfectionists. Being a perfectionist is destructive to your self-esteem, mental health and general wellbeing. However perfectionism is a common self-esteem problem that can be hard to recognise. If you’re like many people, you might be asking, “What’s wrong with being a perfectionist?”
Perfection can easily be confused with having high standards but they're not the same. High standards can be healthy, productive and good for your self-esteem. However, a perfectionist will have standards that are unreasonable, unhealthy and counterproductive. It’s important to recognise perfection as a problem. Here's how to stop being a perfectionist.
Note that you could be a perfectionist in some areas and not others — it doesn’t have to apply to everything.
Why Being a Perfectionist is Bad for Your Self-Esteem
Being a perfectionist is bad for your self-esteem for many reasons. Here are a few of them:
- Being a perfectionist makes you think you’re never good enough. When you expect perfection, you are setting a standard that is unhealthy. You're setting yourself up for failure and that is self-defeating and demoralising (Today I Don't Feel Good Enough: 4 Steps To Improved Self-Esteem).
- Being a perfectionist feeds stress, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. These can be damaging to your self-esteem (Depression and Self-Esteem).
- Being a perfectionist is counter-productive and can impact on your performance. For example, you might procrastinate by waiting until something’s just right before taking action. Perhaps you leave it too late, rush to complete a task and don't do your best. Alternatively, you don't take action or work too slowly. Things don’t get done and you remain stuck.
- Being a perfectionist makes you overlook the positives. Perfectionism can cause you to focus too much on the negative. You may overlook the good things about yourself or your life and you don’t see your own worth.
- Being a perfectionist can make you too fussy so you miss good opportunities. You might dismiss something because it’s not good enough. Perhaps you’re looking to find the perfect social activity, hobby or job before you participate. In the meantime, you’re missing out on many things that are good for you. Additionally, expecting perfection from others could leave you without real friends who help your self-esteem. Nobody will have all the good qualities that you’re looking for; everyone has flaws.
Tips on How to Stop Being a Perfectionist
- Recognise perfection as a problem. Understand the difference between perfectionism and high standards. Realise that while having healthy high standards and setting realistic goals are good for you, being a perfectionist is not.
- Set realistic goals for you. Goal setting is great for building self-esteem. Replace perfectionistic expectations with healthy and realistic goals (The Benefits of Average Performance).
- Look for the positives in yourself and your life. Pay attention to the good things instead of magnifying the negatives. Notice your good qualities, the things you've done well and the good things about your life. Look for the good in others too.
- Love yourself in your entirety, including your imperfections. See the bigger picture and know that you are worthy as a whole person. One minor imperfection or flaw does not make you a "bad" or "unworthy" person (Worthiness and Belonging Key to Living a Blissful Life). Get a more balanced perspective of yourself.
- Embrace your uniqueness. You might see your uniqueness as flawed, however, your perceived "flaws" can be your greatest asset. Many people who achieved great things did so because they were different (Embrace Being Different: You Are Making A Difference).
- Stop procrastinating. Don’t wait for the perfect moment, or for something to be perfect to take action, because that will never happen. Take action now, even when something is not just right. You will feel empowered by taking action, getting more done and by participating more in life (How Procrastination Hurts Your Confidence).
- Think of mistakes as lessons. Perfectionism can come with a fear of failure, which gets in the way of moving forwards. Allow yourself to make mistakes and give yourself the opportunity to learn and grow.
I encourage you to learn as much as you can about perfectionism and get help if you're having trouble overcoming being a perfectionist. You can learn to have high standards that are healthy and realistic for you, and stop being a perfectionist.
Agathangelou, F. (2015, September 22). How to Stop Being a Perfectionist, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2015/09/how-to-stop-being-a-perfectionist
Author: Fay Agathangelou
Truely excellence is not perfection. Love yourself, do your best, love others for who they are. Don't always expect flawlessness
Oh dear Issa....seems like being a perfectionist is even making you cheat....so you are right, you need to do something. I don't know what that thing is...but I suspect you will need to let go... take a risk...and fail: you will need to get your own 86%; you will need to face your dad's wrath and realise you're not going to die if you do; in fact when you face him you might be proud of yourself for going your own way and not his way....and that might feel like success...you will be your own man...not what someone else wants you to be. A failure can be a great learner; she learns her strengths and weaknesses on her own terms - but its important to view failure as nothing more than an opportunity to learn...and to do that there must be an understanding that you are created good, beautiful and as perfect as intended....there is nothing wrong and there never was. Failure may your journey to the Issa with guts, determination, integrity, strength, self belief, and self esteem built on resilience, when you try and try again. Let go. It will be OK.
I have become a neurotic perfectionist and it’s killing me. I am in grade 12 and I am currently doing my courses online and because it’s online I have been proscratinating all my school work and have been waiting for the perfect time to do my school work as a result I have been doing very well but now I have so many subjects to complete and my deadline is around the corner so, I asked my sister to help me with my English courses however, she is not getting the marks that I want her to get hence it’s killing me inside since I am always aiming impossible marks like 100 percent. The worst thing is that I just have to let her help me because my father just can’t stop pressuring me to get my diploma as soon as possible. Every time my sister gets 86 percent I start crying and ponding my head over it because I would want her to always score 100 percent. Someone please help me stop being a perfectionist because I hate it with passion. It has taken absolute control of me.
My perfectionism has totally taken over my life and now I need therapy.
I'm proud of you for writing and hope that you have been able to find a therapist that can help. Lots of times CBT therapy is helpful for ruminations and negative self-talk. Let me know if you've found someone.
Take Good Care,
This article was incredibly unhelpful. “Know that you are worthy as a whole person” is kinda like saying “know particle physics”. I don’t think I would keep attending classes from a professor that told me that, and genuinely expected me to understand particle physics from that statement.
This was so relevant to my life it made me cry. Thank you!
I have almost just finished a CBT course as I have recently started suffering from anxiety and depression mainly I thought from the menopause. It seems to have taken over my life and changing the way I can cope with my emotions. But today I have realised that I have lost 'control' of my emotions and that is the key word. I have been such a control freak and a perfectionist, that I have realised that I need to just let go of the control of being a perfectionist to move on and get my mental health back on track. I looked up this article today on a Google search to see if there is anyway I can help myself get this under control. Lovely to read the rest of the comments to.x
Try reading "The Inner Game of Tennis". It's all about this stuff.
Lord! My life is all about perfectionism. I just realized this an hour ago and that it's the cause to all my anxiety and depression. I have a eating disorder from wanting to be perfect on a diet, wanting the cabinets perfect, my apartment needs to smell perfect, I want my skin perfect, situations to be perfect before I take action... Maybe I've been wanting my friends to be perfect? Well... Friends, I'm not so sure about. I've had some shitty ones... I don't want to get caught up in blaming myself because I'm good for that too. I typically get made at myself for being a people pleaser and allowing exes for friends to get away with being jerks. Who knows anymore... lol
I'm with you Lisa and have just realised that being such a perfectionist has been taking over my life?. My comments yesterday on here are probably some what to do with my health issues and yesterday it suddenly dawned on me how all of this is linked to control. I have lost control of myself over the last four years due to the menopause messing with my emotions, and have been desperate to get that control back and get on with my life. But have realised that I should not be the control freak that I was and let others in a bit more. Hope this makes sense and good luck to you to getting your life back. X
Having perfectionist tendancies can often stem from childhood. Sometimes these behaviours are learned from our parents or at school. The child aims to please and so when it is told that it must try harder or do its best to meet those expectations to gain love or acceptance. Understanding why we do something can help us to make changes as an adult. Telling yourself that perfectionism isn't always the best way forward and can lead to procrastination can also help to change those patterns.
Hi Martina. Thanks very much for your comment, you've highlighted some great points. Perfectionism is a learned behaviour and it's important to understand that it's not healthy. Too many people don't realise how destructive it can be. I like your suggestion about "telling yourself that perfectionism isn’t always the best way forward...". There are certainly healthier and more productive alternatives to perfectionism.