Ten Ways Perfectionism is Getting in Your Way

Do you hear that voice that says “that’s not good enough” and “it should have been better” in response to just about everything? Is it leading you to avoid starting or even completing tasks? Feeling badly about yourself?  This is perfectionism. Doubting yourself over and over. Seeking reassurance that your work is excellent and people like you.  

It is sooooo easy to let perfectionism in.  It is consistently reinforced. The black and white nature of perfectionism makes things seem simple.  Success or failure. Perfect or disaster. In the messiness of life, it can be comforting to think of projects, tasks, ourselves this way.  Perfectionism can offer a sense of structure and control in our pursuit to get everything just right. Our perfectionism may have brought achievements.  Sometimes people clap for us – maybe literally! – when we strive for 100%. While it’s easy to look at perfectionism as helpful, like a lot of things, there is a cost.  

Perfectionism steals the joy.  It takes the fun out of what could be a fun task.  You worry that your dinner party for friends won’t have the right food. The table won’t look beautiful enough. 

Perfectionism is a task master – You can’t relax until all the work is done.  I know no one, truly NO ONE, who has an empty To-Do list. If perfectionism is driving us, there is no time to breathe, time to connect, time to play. 

Perfectionism slows our productivity – You know it won’t be perfect so you don’t start on it.  You procrastinate. Or you know it’s not perfect so until it is you won’t turn it in.  You work on a report for the team at work but don’t get it in on time because that last paragraph isn’t quite right.  

Perfectionism creates loneliness and isolation – You avoid situations in which you don’t have the perfect thing to wear or the perfect thing to say.  The focus on perfection also keeps you from interacting with the imperfect folks – we all are! – around you.  

Perfectionism kills connection – In order to please you become a reflection of those around you.  They don’t know what you like, what you believe or what’s important to you and you might even forget it too!  You can get distilled down to a very plain, vanilla, safe version of yourself that doesn’t allow people to know you.   

Perfectionism doesn’t shut up! – You are preoccupied with your thoughts about how things are not perfect and distracted trying to make them perfect.  There is no room for creativity.  

Perfectionism takes a toll on our bodies – This happens in three ways:  You try to be perfect so you’re overly focused on health and exercise or believe since you can’t ever be perfect why even take care of your body.  Also, perfectionism increases our stress levels which studies show leads to more health issues. And…perfectionists tend to ignore physical issues, try to push through them and don’t seek out help when they need it. 

Perfectionism tanks our mood – Since you strive to be perfect and ultimately come up short, you feel depressed and anxious.  It can be super lonely.  

Perfectionism is a way to avoid.  You end up missing moments of joy because of your attachment to the perfect outcome or ideal. “I won’t work out unless I can go 5 times a day.”  “I won’t make that date with my friend until we’ve got a three-hour block of time that is ideal so I’ll put it off until I do.”

Perfectionism kills gratitude.  Brene Brown talks about how you only give yourself credit for the really big moments – when people are clapping. Loudly. And you discount all of the every day successes that mean so much not just professionally but relationally too.  We discount the smaller successes – “I should have reached that goal sooner, anyone could do that.”

Perfectionism keeps us small.  You believe if you don’t speak up you won’t say it wrong. If you don’t try, you won’t fail.  If you don’t know everything or can’t do everything perfectly you won’t even attempt it. 

How has perfectionism impacted your world?

Perfectionism feels like a gigantic weight. I know it may seem scary to even think about letting it go. Even with all of the costs. You can put it down and get cozy with imperfection.