The Plague of Perfectionism

Perfectionism is truly the root of so many awful things.

Think about where it comes from: studies show the root cause is basing your self-worth on your achievements. If your parents were highly critical, rigid, had high expectations, or shamed you – you probably struggle with perfectionism.

And that’s just where it comes from! Perfectionism can hold you back immensely. The anxiety that comes in when you’re experiencing moments of perfectionism can be jarring at best and completely stop work and progress at worse. So how do we handle the plague of perfectionism in our lives? Read on for a path to get you started.


Congrats! You’ve already done the first step: understanding that you don’t want perfectionist tendencies all the time. Self-awareness and practiced mindfulness can raise your understanding of your perfectionism – and when you understand it, you can not only see when and where it shows up, you can answer one of the biggest perfectionism questions: when does it help me and when does it harm me?

This question seems like it should have a black and white answer – but it doesn’t! Looking at something as helpful or harmful, depending on the situation, is a much easier place to start than trying to get rid of perfectionism altogether. For example, there will be some things I am thrilled to tap into my perfectionism for – and others, it just holds me back.

It’s all about determining if in that specific situation – does perfectionism help what you’re trying to accomplish or do, or does it hold you back and harm progress?

Practice Makes Progress

This was one of the hardest things for me to grasp: when you work on something for an extended period, sometimes frustration sets in when you’re not “nailing it” soon. Tracking progress over perfection in the situations that you’ve determined are not served by perfectionism will help you increase your skill set and make moves in the right – whatever that is – direction.

It’s important here not just to brush off and say “Yeah, yeah I have progress, whatever,” but to actively track that progress and see how far you’ve come.

Balance the Good and the Not Great

Too often I see people talk about all the things they have to improve on and none of the things they already do well or are seeing improvement on.

This is a trap.

If you’re never celebrating any of the things that you’re succeeding in – how are you going to get better at the things you’re struggling with? This isn’t encouraging you to be all sunshine and rainbows all the time – this is encouraging you to understand that you need to focus on your “grows” – things that you need to improve on – and your “glows” – the things you do well.

An easy trick: balance this on a one-to-one. Have one grow for every one glow. That way you’re realistic and not tearing yourself down or ignoring all the progress you could be making.

Mistakes are OK

This is easier said than done right? A mistake might not feel ok – but what about constructive feedback? If you get some feedback on something that isn’t quite right, how do you respond? If you find yourself getting defensive and making excuses for your feedback, you’re doing it wrong. That feedback is there to HELP you – someone isn’t pointing out your mistakes for the sake of pointing out mistakes!

Next time you get some constructive feedback, do one of two things: say thank you and digest it, or ask questions about it (if you don’t fully understand) then say thank you and digest it.

You don’t have to follow the feedback to a ‘T’ – you should appreciate that someone took the time to try to help you get better at something.


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