Being a Perfectionist is NOT a Badge of Honour


I used to think being labelled as a perfectionist meant you were somehow better than the rest, meticulous and extremely detail-oriented,  always striving to produce perfect work and optimal results in all things.  It was like a medal of honour given to those who only handed in assignments, submitted completed projects, went after their goals when everything was ideal, perfect in all aspects, above reproach, or criticism.  Perfectionists were no strangers to massive success, accolades, credentials and positive outcomes.

Today, I know that being a perfectionist is actually holding people back from achieving their goals and feeling a sense of accomplishment because, for them, nothing is ever good enough, nothing is ever worthy enough, nothing is ever deserving of praise.  They are constantly striving for an unrealistic, unattainable standard and therefore, will never be content.

“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous.  It’s about fear.  Fear of making a mistake.  Fear of disappointing others.  Fear of failure.  Fear of success.” ~Michael Law

In my preparation of this topic, I came across a definition of perfectionism that I feel is spot on.

Perfectionism is a set of mental and behavioural habits that insist upon unrealistically high standards for personal conduct and achievement.  Should a person not meet these standards, they may harshly self-critique.  This leads to low self-esteem, procrastination, burnout, and emotional disorders.

Perfectionists have an ‘all-or-nothing’ mentality.  For them, something is either perfect or a failure.

Let’s do a little test to see if you have any perfectionistic traits.


Ø  Are never done. Due to the impossibly high standards, a project is never complete because it doesn’t meet the criteria for “perfect”.
Ø  Are stressed and discontent.  They are constantly worrying about having/doing everything to such a level of perfection and this mindset robs perfectionists of feeling satisfied and fulfilled with their work.
Ø  Have stifled creativity. If you are afraid of failing or being less than perfect, your imagination, creativity as well as innovation necessary for positive change and success are greatly hindered.
Ø  Never take risks. Perfectionists have a deep fear of failure and therefore adopt a mindset of “If I can’t do it perfectly, then I won’t even try.”
Ø  Try to make everybody happy.  Always the people pleaser, always wanting people to think highly of them, the perfectionist views herself as “good” if others like her.
Ø  Are highly critical of others, not just of themselves. 
Ø  Don’t/can’t delegate tasks.  They feel that in order to meet their high expectations, they have to do everything themselves because their way is the only right way of doing a task.
Ø  Personalize everything. They believe in themselves when things are going well and people like them, but any negative feedback is taken personally and is an indication of failure.
Ø  Never take time to rest or play.  They have the attitude, “I will rest or play when the job is done.”  But for perfectionists, the job IS never done, IS never perfect enough, and this often results in burnout.

Perfectionism can be coined: the unproductive mindset.  Why?  Because perfectionists get a job 90% done but due to their obsession with perfection, don’t manage to complete it.  Or, they never begin a task for fear of not being able to meet their high expectations.

Perfectionism is born out of a mindset that requires working hard at all costs.  There is an illusion surrounding perfectionism, “If I don’t work hard enough and demand perfection of myself and my work, then I or my work will be mediocre, at best.”

So, let me refer back to my statement at the very beginning of this episode:  Being a perfectionist is not a badge of honour.

In fact, “Perfectionism is the lowest standard for humans because it doesn’t exist.” ~ Tony Robbins

It is a disguised label for “I am not good enough” and a deep-rooted fear of judgement that is holding us back.

I’d like to challenge you to shift your mindset from perfectionistic behaviour to a ‘go-for-it’ mentality.

For the purpose of this podcast, I would like to touch on 5 ways perfectionism affects our mindset followed by some ways to overcome perfectionism when it’s holding you back with some simple, effective exercises and a bit more awareness.

1.)    Perfectionists set unrealistic expectations.  Harbouring the belief that “you can be perfect at any task” leads to disappointment as well as frustration with the results you get.  Perfectionists believe they can always do better.  This means that the goal or end of the task keeps shifting no matter how they improve.
2.)    Perfectionists have a fear of failure.  Many perfectionists never even start with a new task or hobby for fear of not succeeding at it.  Their anxiety levels are far too high due to not being able to do the task well enough or up to their impossibly high standards.
3.)    Perfectionism causes procrastination.  The pressure a perfectionist puts on him/herself can make that person postpone tasks continually. For such people, the standard is always ‘perfection’ which makes is very challenging to begin or ultimately complete projects.
4.)    Perfectionist often experience burnout.  Being under constant pressure is exhausting. Perfectionists spend a lot of time worrying about the task rather than working on it.
5.)    Perfectionists suffer from low self-esteem. Having high levels of perfectionism may have a significant impact on your self-esteem because you are not appreciating your accomplishments, big or small, up to standard or not.  In these cases, it is very difficult to feel good about yourself.  Over time, this compounds and results in feeling of poor self-worth.

For example, let’s say you worked really hard on a project.  You submitted it and received great feedback, but YOU believe you don’t deserve credit for a job well done because you didn’t perform exactly the way you had envisioned.  Your ‘almost perfect’ project just doesn’t feel fulfilling enough or up to your standards. You aren’t satisfied with yourself and therefore, cannot bask in the glory of doing an awesome job.

Losing confidence in yourself and your abilities is the most detrimental effect of being a perfectionist, in my opinion.  I have seen it over and over again in my work as a mindset and life coach.  Being caught up in the vacuum of perfectionism can be stifling when you strive for something so hard and set the bar so high that you end up sacrificing yourself and your worth in the process.

Once you lose sight of yourself, you begin to feel unsettled and insecure.  In addition, your identity becomes tied to how well you perform tasks, big or small.

The truth is… no one really is perfect.  Everyone one of us has flaws.

Whether you classify yourself as a perfectionist or you are a recovering perfectionist, I would like to walk you through some simple exercises I do with my clients when perfectionism is standing between them and their success.

Step 1:  Becoming aware of your perfectionistic behaviours

If you feel yourself NOT wanting to move forward with something, e.g. your proposal for work is not good enough, your social media post/reel is not good enough, etc.

PAUSE and pay attention to your thought patterns.  WRITE them down in a journal.  RECOGNIZE which thoughts are holding you back, so that you can change the self talk next time it happens.

If I were to take my podcast as an example…
§  A perfectionist would keep pushing back the official launch date, never feeling ready or good enough. 
§  A perfectionist would criticize oneself and knit pick at all the small details, never being fully satisfied with any aspect.
§  A perfectionist would procrastinate about topics to talk about, never settling on one to start with at least.
§  A perfectionist would question the quality of the recordings and the sound of one’s voice, never accepting that things will not be perfect from day one.
§  A perfectionist will keep his/her creativity and message from the world because he/she cannot focus on making progress over having everything perfect from the get go.
§  A perfectionist will plan, dream, work on, hope for starting his/her podcast, but in the end, will not be able to put oneself out there to the world because there will be too many aspects that simple aren’t perfect.

I think you get the picture.
Allowing perfectionism to keep you from following your dreams and chasing after your goals is keeping you small, safe and protected in many ways. 

Step 2:  Start focusing on the positives.

If you find yourself wanting everything to be ‘perfect’, you will likely fixate on the negative parts of your work, your appearance or yourself in some way.  It is extremely important to make a conscious effort to recognize the good.

CHALLENGE yourself to identify 3 things you can appreciate for anything that pops up you are not satisfied with.

My example:  I really dislike my recorded voice.  My podcast script needs this to be perfect.
– I am pleased with my consistency in producing my podcasts.
– I figured the technical side out on my own.
– I love the process of writing and preparing for my daily podcasts.
– I never run out of ideas and concepts for podcast episodes.

Step 3:  Allow yourself to make mistakes

CREATE two cue cards with the following quotes:

* Mistakes are opportunities for me to learn, grow and do better.
* The world will NOT come to an end if I make a mistake.  Life goes on!

CHALLENGE yourself to take on a new hobby or sport that you will likely not be good at at the beginning. Rather than trying to be perfect at this skill, ENJOY the activity itself and be happy with your efforts in slowly learning to improve at it.

Step 4:  Ditch the unrealistic goal setting habit

Perfectionists oftentimes set goals that are completely unrealistic and unattainable to reach, only due to their impossible standards.

SET GOALS that are super simple, specific as opposed to vague, achievable, measurable, and can be completed within the time frame you set for yourself.

By achieving smaller goals, you will gain confidence and feel much less stressed in your abilities to reach them.

Step 5:  Lower the pressure you place on yourself

The person who pressures you the most is yourself!  Be kinder to yourself and give yourself some grace.

The minute you find yourself imposing unrealistic standards, flip the script in your head and remind yourself:  If you’re doing your best, you’re doing just fine.

This step reminds me of children or teenagers before writing a test/exam and after receiving the results back.

->During the preparation, all you can do is review, practice and prepare as best you can.  Whatever the situation is, as long as you are trying your hardest and doing everything in your power to get your mind and skills ready for the upcoming test, you are going to be fine.

->In the situation where you get back the test results and they aren’t as high as you had expected or wanted, you need to tell yourself that the world is not going to come to an end.  Putting in your best effort was the key.  Obviously, there is room for improvement, so find out ways of getting better.  Use this opportunity to grow and learn rather than getting down on yourself for receiving a less-than-stellar mark.

There is no such thing as ‘perfect’ but we can be proud of doing our best.
Step 6: Focus on Enjoyment over Perfection

SHIFT your focus to finding meaning and above all else, enjoyment in what you are doing instead of striving to be perfect.

Again, CREATE a cue card with the words:  As I work on this task (or hobby), I will enjoy the process.  I will relish the small increments of progress I make.  I will start loving the skills I am learning.  I will focus on the present task and do my very best.

If something brings you joy and purpose, it will no longer matter whether it is done with perfection or not.
There is much more fulfillment to be had in finding enjoyment along the way.

Step 7:  Stop the procrastination.

Perfectionists are notorious for procrastinating and finding every excuse in the book to slack off.  We all know the hardest part of any task, big or small, is actually starting.

I think back to my days at school and the pending essay I needed to complete for English class.  3000 words were waiting to be written, formatted, reviewed and checked thoroughly for spelling and grammatic errors, and then submitted for grading.

Here’s my tip for you if procrastination is a real thing in your life:

Just start by creating a rough outline of what needs to be done. Next, take one small action step.  Then, take another.  Before long, the momentum will grow organically and like a snowball rolling down a hill, more and more pieces will fall into place.  Before you know it, the task will be done.
So, there you have it.
… the first seven steps anyone can start doing to combat perfectionistic behaviour and those feelings of not being able to reach the high standards you put yourself under to much pressure to achieve.
Allow me to briefly recap:
As with anything of this nature, it takes a certain amount of conscious effort to realize perfectionism is what is getting in your way AND to take action to see change happen.

I’d really like to challenge you to shift your mindset from perfectionistic behaviour to a ‘go-for-it’ mentality.  Let’s flip the script…

“Don’t aim for perfection. Aim for ‘better than yesterday’.”

Personal growth is about progress, not perfection. ~Hal Elrod

Don’t let perfectionism paralyze you and hold you back from things you want to accomplish.  Strive for continuous improvement and be sure to show yourself some love along the way.  The efforts you are making are votes of confidence in yourself.
Just in case you haven’t heard this yet today, let me be the first to tell you…

I believe in you and I know you have the ability to do great things with your one precious life.  Now, go out and show the world what you are truly made of.

That’s all for today’s dose of motivation.  I hope to have inspired you to grow.

With love,

Lisa xoxo