Is Perfectionism Holding You Back?

September 22, 2014
perfectionism, overcoming perfectionism, creativity, self-development

As a recovering perfectionist, I know exactly how it feels to spend days and days polishing something you’re working on and never submit it in the end. Or go through mountains of books and research just to find that you already knew the answers you were looking for before you even started. Or fail to apply for a job you really wanted because you couldn’t come up with the right opening sentence for your cover letter. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do the best job you can, but when you want to do a perfect job, you’ve taken on an impossible task.

Here are just some of the ways perfectionism can hold you back:

  • You may be investing too much time in perfecting your work, instead of trying something new, spending time with your family or simply having a break.
  • You could be missing out on opportunities because of your all-or-nothing attitude. If you don’t think you can do something perfectly, you don’t even give yourself a chance.
  • Your perfectionism can cause you a lot of stress and performance anxiety sometimes to the point of making you physically sick.
  • You become less creative. As you’re trying to eliminate mistakes and failure, you choose safety instead of boldness.
  • You give up. At some point you may decide that it’s not even worth trying since you can’t do it perfectly anyway.

Strategies for overcoming perfectionism:

  • Bring in an outside perspective. Share your work in progress with colleagues or friends and ask for their opinion. This can be very hard to do, because perfectionists usually fear judgment, but once you give it a try you’ll realise that you’re your harshest critic and anything anyone else has to say about your work will be a lot kinder. You’ll be surprised to discover that the world is not setting the impossible standards you’re trying to measure yourself up against. You’re setting them up for yourself and you can choose to let them go.
  • Focus on improving your skills instead of the finished work. This will shift your attention from the end result to the process and you will find that you’re enjoying yourself more and stress less.
  • Set some limits for yourself before you start and challenge yourself to stick to them. Give yourself a deadline and whatever you come up with during that time will have to be good enough. Or limit the research you do to three books or articles. Practice on less important tasks first and the more you do it, the easier it’ll get.

Image by indy0333 via

By Tatiana Apostolova

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