Overcoming perfectionism and embracing imperfections


  Overcoming perfectionism and embracing imperfections

Do you feel like you are constantly second-guessing yourself and your decisions, striving for perfection even when perfection is impossible? Do you worry that you might have flaws and are always critical of yourself? You might be experiencing an unhealthy level of perfectionism.

In this post, we will explore how to remove the obstacles that are stopping us from being happy with ourselves and our lives. We will talk about the harms of perfectionism such as low self-confidence, low resilience in the face of setbacks, depression and anxiety.

We will also discuss how to overcome perfectionism, starting with simple steps such as accepting that mistakes are inevitable and we should not be ashamed of making them, and ending with harder concepts like forgiving ourselves when we do fail.

So what is perfectionism anyway? Perfectionism can be defined as an excessive preoccupation or concern with being or appearing perfect. It manifests itself through three main behaviors that include: ―the setting of unrealistic goals, ―the tendency to be too critical about oneself (or others) and the ―an excessive need for approval.

If you always strive to be perfect, even when it is impossible, you might be falling prey to perfectionism. Perfectionism can sabotage your happiness and leave you with low motivation and productivity, while also increasing the likelihood of burnout .

Perfectionism becomes unhealthy when it causes us to:

1- Set unrealistic standards for ourselves. In our minds we set high standards for what is needed to achieve ‘success’ in our lives and careers. In reality though, perfection is not always necessary or attainable. Yes, we should aim high but there are times where being good enough will suffice or that reaching for perfection might even be counter-productive.

2- Have an excessive need for approval. It is human nature to want to be liked by others and to feel accepted. The problem with perfectionism is that we are constantly comparing ourselves with others (and failing) so we become critical of ourselves and are more likely to develop low self-esteem.

3- Feel like a failure or a burden on other people’s time, energy and resources. When we are not being perfect, it becomes difficult for us to connect with other people because we don’t feel authentic . We feel like the extra weight around our neck is not only draining us but also holding us back from fulfilling our potential.

4- Have difficulty making decisions and choices. We are often paralyzed with indecision because we are scared of making the wrong choice and this prevents us from moving forward in life. When we set ourselves up to fail, it can be difficult to see positive outcomes as a possibility.

5- Experience constant fear and doubt. Perfectionism often leads to fear of making mistakes or failing. Often the mistake is not even noticed or important, it is just seen as an indication that we are lacking in skills and abilities. On the other hand, when we do make mistakes, a perfectionist will over-analyze them and beat themselves up over it which is counterproductive.

6- Think negatively about yourself and your future. Perfectionism makes us think that being imperfect means there is something wrong with us and that we are less valuable than other people (or you used to be). This will affect other aspects of our lives like our identity, our social circle and the kind of work we choose to do.

7- Feel depressed, anxious or isolated. Perfectionism can contribute to depression for a number of reasons such as low self-worth (both in the past and present), debilitating perfectionist thoughts that consume you and a lack of motivation to reach your goals in new situations. Likewise, anxiety is often triggered by perfectionist fears about failure or missing an opportunity. When you think too much about what could go wrong, your fear becomes so intense that it is hard to function normally.

If perfectionism is affecting your life in the way described above, it is time to start dismantling it. By being aware of what drives you to feel insecure about yourself and your actions, you can start to fix the underlying issues that are causing the problem. The first step is to be honest with yourself and question whether perfectionism has been holding you back or if you are just being hard on yourself in general. A more positive attitude will help you focus on setting realistic goals for yourself and not comparing your efforts to others. It will also help you to accept failures as inevitable and necessary.

You should also try to listen to your inner voice instead of the harsh comments made by the perfectionist within you. Be gentle when giving yourself feedback because most of the time it is not only unnecessary but also counterproductive. As one of my favorite articles on Psychology Today said: “We’re all trying to get better, but there’s a big difference between self-criticism and constructive criticism”.

Last but not least, forgive yourself when you make mistakes because as we have said before it is inevitable. The key is to acknowledge the mistakes as neutral events and move on. When you have made a mistake do not be afraid to look at it from all sides and try to see what went wrong and how you can avoid making that mistake again in the future. It will take time but with practice, it will become second nature .


Perfectionism can be an exhausting and futile exercise that does nothing but sabotage your hopes and dreams. However, it is important to appreciate change because it is a sign of progress. If you are looking for tips to help end the perfectionistic habits in your life, then check out the free downloadable e-book below!

How to Stop Trying to Be Perfect (Reclaim Your Happiness) by Shannon Waigwa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.ShannonWaigwa.com/contact_shannon/


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