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Nine Ways to Manage Perfectionism

Updated: Jun 16, 2021


What is Perfectionism?


Perfectionism is conceptualized as a personality style in which a person strives to reach nothing short of perfection. While the personality trait may seem like a “humblebrag” or the go-to answer to the most dreaded interview question, “what is your greatest weakness?”, it is not something that you should take lightly. True perfectionists often wallow in fear that their goals will not be met. Even the smallest discrepancy in their plans can discourage them. Actions like these can cause someone to be over critical, discontent, and unable to live their lives to the fullest. Before one begins their journey to combating perfectionism, one must become aware that they are perfectionists in the first place.


Some common behaviors of perfectionism are but not limited to:


  • Feeling that you’re not good enough

  • Being highly critical of yourself and others

  • Setting goals that are not attainable or reasonable

  • Fearing failure

  • Procrastinating

  • Caring too much about what others think

  • Fixating on your mistakes

  • Having a “do-it-yourself” mentality

  • Being overly cautious when completing a task

  • Waiting for the “perfect” moment to take action


Redefining Perfection


If you put together definitions from Google, Webster’s Dictionary, and more they define perfection as something that is flawless. This implies that perfection is a subjective experience that is perceived differently by everyone. One person may form their definition of perfection based on the successes of someone else. While another believes perfection is putting in 100% effort in everything they do. So what does perfection mean to you? Allow yourself to redefine perfection and the success that comes with it on your own terms. Forget about what everyone else is doing. What is realistically attainable based on your personal abilities? Once you identify this you are one step closer to managing your perfectionism.


The Fix


  1. Uncover the roots of your perfectionism: This is the time to be introspective. Try to reconnect with your past and examine the many factors that may have influenced the development of your perfectionist traits. You can ask yourself questions like, “ Why is it important for me to achieve this specific goal?” or “Who or what made me feel like I had to be perfect?”

  2. Create realistic goals: One of the main reasons why perfectionists suffer so much is because their expectations go beyond what is usually necessary. It is important to realize that there is a fine line between wanting to be the best that you can be and striving for unreasonably high expectations. Just because something isn’t “perfect” doesn’t mean that it’s bad. How do you accurately measure perfection anyway? Use goals that are S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) in order to give yourself a better sense of direction.

  3. Create a checklist: Write down what needs to be done. Once you complete them you are done. Doing this prevents you from obsessing over the little things that aren’t necessarily important to the main goal. You are more likely to stray away from things like font size or picking the perfect picture for your blog post thumbnail. Even if these things do matter, you shouldn’t give them the power to stress you out.

  4. Set your own deadline: It may be helpful to set a deadline before a certain project is due to ensure that you’re not cramming, worrying about every little detail.

  5. Use criticism to your advantage: For someone who’s a perfectionist, criticism can be a bummer. When you work hard to achieve perfection, it can feel disheartening when someone has something to say about your work. Realize that criticism is the catalyst for your personal and professional growth. It is important to realize that a simple critique is not an evaluation of your entire self worth and abilities. Take what you need to improve and move accordingly.

  6. Live in the moment: As a perfectionist, it is common to be solely fixated on the final destination. It is important that you appreciate every step on your journey towards creating your masterpiece. No matter how much you plan or think about the future, you are only in control of what is happening right now. Always remember, “life is a journey, not a destination.”

  7. Don’t expect everyone to think like you: Your standards are unique to you. Because of this, everyone may not resonate with your grand ideas and expectations on how to complete a specific task.

  8. Accept failure & uncertainty: Most perfectionists have a clear vision as to how they expect their endeavors to plan out. When their ideas don’t go as planned, it is common for them to feel as if they have not achieved their desired perfection. Embracing and accepting uncertainty allows us to see the greatness that we can achieve outside of our comfort zones. And if that, “greatness” suddenly leads to failure, you need to realize how lucky you are to have unlocked the key to a “win” as you proceed to try again.

  9. Opt for a more positive mindset: Think about the last time you had a negative thought. Did it help you achieve your goal? Negative thoughts strengthen our fear while completely diminishing our confidence. You can be aware of the things that may go wrong while also keeping your head high with the belief that you are capable of tackling everything that comes your way. Your attitude is important and it has a huge impact on how things play out for you in the end.


Start Taking Action


If you still have perfectionist thoughts and actions after attempting these tips for the first time, don’t feel bad. Even after submitting a paper, you may still feel like you have to reread it five times every day to ensure that you did everything right. Or, you may still delete an Instagram picture because it fails to align perfectly with your feed. Changing long-term behavior is not easy. Also, realize that you don’t have to change every little thing that makes you who you are. Manage it. Acknowledge your flaws when you make them and actively work on fixing it so that you can save your mental health and be the best that you can truly be.


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