How to overcome perfectionism

updated on 04 October 2021

Post by Thais Bogarin, Content Writer at Deep Breath

Overcoming perfectionism requires patience and persistence but can be done! 
Overcoming perfectionism requires patience and persistence but can be done! 

Being successful is an idea most of us grow up with to different extents. It can often seem that success should the most important goal in life. The tricky bit is not only what that actually entails, but how. Sometimes we’re exposed to messages that make it seem like perfectionism is the key to get there. However, the opposite tends to be true, as perfectionism can actually lead to beliefs and behaviors that make it harder to achieve our objectives.

What is the meaning of perfectionism?

Perfectionism is often defined as the need to be or appear to be perfect; or even the belief that perfection is attainable. This trait can come up in different areas of our lives, from our office or school, to relationships, to our physical and mental health. Whichever the case may be, perfectionism is closely linked to our insecurities and fear of failure.

There’s no denying the value of hard work, and getting things done usually feels good, doesn’t it? The trouble with perfectionism is that it crosses the line of doing our best and pushes us in a toxic direction. Perfectionism is not so much about striving to be proud of yourself, but rather, about being afraid of not being good enough and facing rejection.

What causes perfectionism?

There are a lot of reasons that can cause perfectionism in a person.

Pressure is one of them. It can be internal, such as the personal desire to avoid failure in any task; or it can come from external sources, like a parent who expresses disapproval whenever their child fails to attain perfection.

On the other hand, perfectionism can be a response to neglect from someone we love, or fear of being rejected by other people.

Another usual suspect is lack of self-compassion. Not noticing and valuing our own feelings, experiences, and failures manifests in many ways, from overly criticizing ourselves to -yes, you guessed it- perfectionism.

Am I a perfectionist?

Working and reworking a presentation to exhaustion, even if it means skipping meals and sleep. Taking hundreds of selfies until you finally have one that is social media “worthy”. Saying ‘no’ to a date because you may not rise up to the occasion. Feeling like a failure for not getting top marks in an exam. Do any of these sound familiar? Then it’s likely you’ve also fallen victim to the traps of perfectionism. These are just a few of the situations in which it is evident, but everyone has different ways of being a perfectionist.

Still in doubt? You can take a self-assessment test to know if you’re a perfectionist.

How to overcome perfectionism

Like most of our behavioral patterns, perfectionism can be worked on with the right help. Traditionally, therapy is one of the most common approaches; nonetheless alternatives such as online resources and courses are becoming increasingly accessible.

Therapy

In a therapeutic context, you can become more aware of what you’re struggling with and understand what may be influencing you. Whether this is the best choice for you depends on how comfortable you feel opening up to a therapist, and if you have the time and financial resource to commit to therapy.

Online courses & resources

If you feel like you can tackle perfectionism through self-guided resources, then all you need is a computer or mobile phone and little to no budget.

You can learn how to cope with perfectionism through specialized online courses. Some have a theoretical approach, while others combine expert knowledge with breathing techniques, creative challenges, mantras, and visualization exercises.

Additionally, many academic publications and government institutions provide useful information with tips and suggestions you can gradually incorporate into your daily life.

At the end of the day, perfection is unattainable. Aristotle even said that for something to be perfect, it needs to be “so good that nothing of the kind could be better”. That’s a lot of pressure, isn’t it? So it’s important to remind yourself that doing your best already means you did something successfully!

Do you feel up to working on your perfectionism? Our integrated therapy-like approach developed by psychologists can help you not only address perfectionism, but also work on your overall self-esteem for a happier life. Another way is to join one of our group sessions.

Medical disclaimer

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.

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