Overcoming Perfectionism: A Practical Guide

The society we live in often praises the pursuit of perfection. We sometimes tend to be proud of our perfectionism. However, when we obsessively strive for perfection, it can lead to burnout as we try to control every aspect of our lives. Perfectionism is not just a bad habit but can be a deeply ingrained personality trait that affects our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Consequently, there are no easy solutions for coping with perfectionism or the anxiety that comes with it. 


Striving for perfection and having high standards is not necessarily a negative trait. It is admirable to aim for excellence, and it can demonstrate a strong work ethic and moral integrity. However, perfectionism can become problematic when you become fixated on your high standards and become obsessed with everything going exactly as planned. Perfectionism has two sides to it. On the one hand, it can motivate you to work hard and produce outstanding results. On the other hand, it can cause anxiety and slow you down.


Read this blog post to learn how to overcome perfectionism. I will also recommend the best books on overcoming perfectionism so make sure you read till the end. 


What is Perfectionism? 

Perfectionism is the inclination to establish standards that are either impossible to meet or can only be fulfilled with every difficulty. Many perfectionists believe that anything less than perfect is terrible and that even little errors will have devastating effects. 

I can't tolerate making errors, "Nothing I do ever seems good enough," and "My objectives are so high I can nearly never attain them" are all signs of your maladaptive perfectionism anxiety. This increases your sadness and self-criticism. Healthy high standards, however, are distinct.


How to Overcome Perfectionism and Perfectionism Anxiety 

Overcoming perfectionism is no easy fit. You need to treat yourself with kindness and compassion even on the days you revert to your perfectionist self. In the sections below I’ll share tips on how to overcome perfectionism and how to overcome perfectionism anxiety. 


  • Identify and recognize perfectionism 

This is a crucial first step since it lets you determine whether you have a perfectionist issue. Everyone who strives for perfection may recall a time in their lives when they wished they could have shielded themselves from disappointment. 


Most of the time, perfectionism is a reaction to a fear of criticism. The creator of the online coaching business Zarvana, Matt Plummer, says, “A lot of perfectionistic tendencies are rooted in fear and insecurity.” 

Completing the following questionnaire might be helpful if you're having problems determining whether you have a perfectionism issue:

  • Do I struggle to live up to my expectations?
  • Do I frequently experience frustration, depression, anxiety, or anger when attempting to live up to my standards?
  • Do most people think my standards are too high?
  • Do my expectations stand in the way? Do they, for instance, make it challenging for me to complete a task, meet deadlines, have faith in people, or act impulsively?


  • Separate Yourself From Your Inner Critic

No matter what you accomplish or how hard you work, perfectionism is a loud inner voice reminding you that you are not good enough. When negative self-talk keeps shouting over other thoughts and feelings, it may be challenging to enjoy who you are, feel competent, and feel confident. 


One of the most effective strategies to overcome perfectionism in adults is to replace self-critical or perfectionistic beliefs with more realistic and helpful ones. This is because individuals with perfectionism are frequently quite critical of themselves.


Practice saying a positive affirmation to yourself daily. Even if you don't immediately believe them, enough practice will make realistically good thinking a habit and help drown out negative self-talk. Look at the broader picture and stop being so hard on yourself. To reduce your concern with details, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is it truly important?
  • What could possibly go wrong?
  • Can I endure the worst-case scenario?
  • Will this matter in the future? Why not try next week? coming year



  • Monitor your progress

We advise doing weekly assessments in which you evaluate your progress as you attempt to control your perfectionist inclinations. Think about making a list of the things you wish to let go of. Overcoming your concerns and adopting new behaviours takes effort. Hence, constantly find the time to treat yourself for your hard work. 

Sometimes treating yourself to something nice can keep you motivated. Going out for a good lunch, taking a stroll, going out with friends, or just taking time to unwind or treat oneself might be considered rewards.

Still unsure what perfectionism looks like? Well, here are some examples of perfectionistic behaviour to give you some perspective: 

  • persistent procrastination, trouble finishing projects, or a tendency to give up quickly
  • too careful and diligent in their work (e.g., finishing a 30-minute task in 2 hours)
  • Thorough inspection (e.g., spending time looking over a brief email to your boss for possible errors)
  • Rewriting a paper numerous time to make it "perfect" is an example of constantly striving to improve something
  • agonizing about minor details (e.g., what movie to rent)
  • creating detailed "to-do" lists (e.g., scheduling when you brush your teeth, take a bath, etc.) 
  • avoiding making errors and attempting new things

Do any of these instances remind you of yourself? That's okay. You have already begun your journey toward self-improvement and overcoming destructive perfectionism by reading this article. 


Best Books on Overcoming Perfectionism

Here are some of the best books on overcoming perfectionism from world renowned authors: 

  • Overcoming Perfectionism by Ann Smith 
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown 
  • Never Good Enough by Monica Ramirez Basco 
  • The Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar 
  • How to Be an Imperfectionist by Stephen Guise 




Don't treat these suggestions with a perfectionist mindset. See these stages as a journey to liberation and self-discovery rather than developing unhealthy and false expectations for immediate outcomes, micromanaging, and evaluating your progress. 

Choose the first piece of advice that appeals to you or feels the most achievable, and then progressively add the others as you go. I know the inner voice that urges you to maintain perfectionism and avoid criticism. But there is no such thing as failure—only worthy lessons from trying things along the road. Thus, reassure your inner perfectionist that the hard work is about to start. 


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