What is Perfectionism & How Can I Overcome It?
Aspire Learning Space
Sep 26, 2022

The term perfectionism is derived from a need to be “perfect” and free of flaw and it stems out of
a desire to reach unrealistic expectations. While achieving perfection can sound like a good thing,
due to the positive connotations that are often attached to the word perfect, it actually has a deep
and negative impact on one’s decisions and overall mental health.

Signs of Perfectionism

1- Fear of Failure

Perfectionists tend to have specific expectations of outcomes and they expect nothing less than
perfect. They don’t give themselves space to make mistakes or see things unfold out of their
control. The constant need to yield perfect results leads to a life of fear of not measuring up to
the desired level of success.

2- Procrastination

A perfectionist’s fear of failure leads to procrastination. It sounds paradoxical for a perfectionist
to put off work, but this is a natural consequence of a fear of failure. When a perfectionist gets
scared of not succeeding, they choose not to try at all. To them, not starting the project is more
comforting than working on it and watching it fail. You will realize that perfectionists often don’t
chase their dreams for that reason.

3- Strained relationships with others

Perfectionists tend to struggle in their relationships with other people because not only are they
critical of themselves but they are also highly critical of others. In addition to that, their
defensiveness makes it quite hard for others to be open with them. Perfectionists fear getting
feedback that is less than perfect, and for that reason they can respond with defensiveness when
met with constructive criticism.

4- Disappointment from unrealistic expectations

It gets difficult for a perfectionist to bounce back from a failure or unmet expectations. When
they fail, they tend to feel worthless and their self-esteem is heavily impacted by that. Their
highly critical nature leads to a spiral of self-criticism, self-hatred, and blame.

5- Burnout

It’s easy to feel stressed when you’re a perfectionist, because it’s an impossible standard to
attain. It leads to burnout because a perfectionist takes on more work than they can handle
because they always believe that they can do it better than anyone else. This mentality leads to
them refusing to delegate tasks, and therefore feeling more overwhelmed with work. Tasks that
can be finished in less time get done in forever, because if it’s not the way they want then it’s not
good enough.

Tips to overcome perfectionism:

  • Analyze your goals and think about how attainable/realistic they are
  • Limit the time you spend on tasks, avoid spending too much time trying to perfect
    something by creating a time limit
  • Engage in new hobbies that you are not necessarily good at, so you can teach
    yourself that you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it
  • Reflect on the things that define who you are rather than your achievements
  • Make it a statement to reflect on the things in your life you procrastinate in out of
    a fear of failure, and think of how you can start working on them
  • Encourage others to give you feedback without being defensive
  • Change what “perfection” means to you by cutting out anything that encourages
    the “hustle culture”

Reflection Questions

● Do you have difficulty delegating tasks to others?
● What’s your take on the hustle culture?
● Do you procrastinate out of a fear of not being able to perfect the task at hand?
● Do you beat yourself over past mistakes or do you find it easy to forgive yourself?

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