The Subtle Art of Overcoming Perfectionism

A perfectionist is someone who strives for flawlessness.

This is often accomplished through obsessing on imperfections, working especially hard, trying to control situations and often being critical and judgmental of others and oneself.

There is nothing wrong with striving to be your best self or make the best out of your life. Where we fall flat is when we feel enslaved by a compulsion to meet some artificial and unattainable idea of what it means to be perfect.

Healthy perfectionism fosters goal-setting and achievement. Unhealthy Perfectionism compels one to avoid failure which causes mental stress and emotional worry about not measuring up. Unhealthy perfectionists are especially concerned about others’ evaluations of them.

It is not easy to escape the grip of perfectionism in a modern world that glamorizes perfect beauty, perfect parenting, perfect careers and perfect relationships.

Overcoming perfectionism is possible!

The first step to overcome perfectionism is learning to recognize it within yourself and understanding where it originated.

What are the Characteristics of Perfectionism?

  • An excessive need for control
    Perfectionists often are extremely fussy and preoccupied with making sure that everything is flawless, aka, perfect, which can lead to attempts to control situations and/or people.

  • An overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety
    This makes it difficult for perfectionists to achieve goals and can negatively impact relationships.

  • Fear of failure
    They are often fixed on the outcome and the results which causes them to become extremely disappointed by anything less than perfection. This may explain why perfectionists grapple with getting started on new projects.

  • Being highly critical
    Perfectionists tend to spot mistakes and imperfections because of their laser focus on being flawless. They are more judgmental of themselves and of others which makes them highly critical, especially when failure happens.

  • Procrastination
    Perfectionism and procrastination often go hand in hand. Because of the intense fear of failure, perfectionists will procrastinate in order to ease the emotional burden of the pressure to create perfection.

  • Defensiveness
    Perfectionists have a difficult time taking constructive criticism. They are more apt to take it personally since they strive for perfect performance, rather than seeing it as potentially valuable information. They respond in defensiveness as a way of protecting themselves from feeling disapproved.

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”

― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Where Does Perfectionism Come From?

Perfectionism is caused by a fear of judgment, criticism and disapproval from others. Early childhood experiences, such as having parents with unrealistically high expectations, play a role in perfectionism.

Those who experience emotional trauma as children, whereas a parent withheld love, long for their parents’ approval and come to believe they must prove their worth.

Being impressionable, children may have been exposed to a parent who was highly self-critical and took to modeling their behavior.

Being bullied as a child, criticized by others and societal pressure can also prime us in the direction of perfectionism. We take it on as a way to shield ourselves from judgment and shame.

How Does Social Media Impact Perfectionism?

We are living in a modern society where everyone’s achievements, however big or small are on display. Social media has gifted the world with empowering movements, some inspirational content and positive connections, but it is also contributing to the rise of depression, bullying, and perfectionism, especially among teens.

Social media is a prime example of something that breeds comparison and causes people to struggle to measure up to the seemingly perfect life displayed across the screens.

The daily barrage of glossy, glamorous vacation photos, perfectly poised and filtered selfies, posh meals, witty videos and successful career marketing can feel overwhelming. In comparison, when we don’t seem to be living that perfect life and think we are missing out, depression can easily set in.

In most cases, people are not posting about their flaws or imperfections. We do not know the real truth behind the image. Those people with the perfect life are not without problems and are just as insecure and stressed out as everyone else.

The tactics giving rise to comparison sets us up for failure. Therefore, it’s a lose-lose situation especially when we want to overcome perfectionism.

How to overcome perfectionism

1. Get honest with yourself and become aware of your tendencies

Look at your behaviors and see if perfectionism strikes a chord in your life.
None of us are immune to vulnerability and that is OK.

2. Tame the inner critic (negative thoughts)

Question your negative thoughts! Our mind does lie to us. When they show up (*hint you will know when you start to feel like crap), ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Is it true? Like really?
  2. Is it kind?
  3. Is it necessary?

If you answer no to any of them, ditch them! For an immediate shift, transcend your negative thoughts by placing your focus on what you are grateful for.

3. Foster Self Compassion, it’s crucial

Forgive yourself. Show yourself some love and understanding. You know where perfectionism comes from and how terrible it makes you feel.

Give yourself permission to give yourself a break, and know that you are enough just as you are.

4. Allow yourself to make mistakes

You are human. Humans make mistakes. They keep us humble. Mistakes are simply opportunities for growth. They sure as hell do not define who you are. Only you get to define who you are.

5. Set more reasonable goals and take pressure off yourself

Rather than biting off more than you can chew, take your goals in manageable, attainable steps. By staying focused on the process of each step, and practicing taking the pressure off yourself helps with procrastination as you overcome perfectionism.

6. Celebrate all your wins, especially the small ones

Keeping a journal to celebrate all your victories is a way to develop a more positive outlook and to appreciate your worth.

7. What flaws and mistakes do you need to forgive yourself for?

Write them down. Begin from here. Overcome perfectionism.

The subtle art of overcoming perfectionism takes mindfulness and consistent practice in order to unlearn the ways that got you there.

Perfectionism is an unrealistic burden that weighs you down and prevents you from enjoying a more relaxed way of being and a happier life.

To be imperfect is natural. To have flaws is inherent. You are perfectly imperfect, just as you are meant to be. You are unique. There is no one like you, and that truly is your superpower!

One more thing…

If you are struggling with alleviating the pressure of perfectionism and just can’t seem to find the steps towards a more relaxed, fun way of being, I would love to help. I get it, I have been there. Let’s connect you to your superpower without perfectionism getting in the way. You know deep down inside, it’s time, and you can turn things around.
Click here and Let’s connect.

Mucho Love,


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