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How to Overcome Perfectionism

Image by Mitya Kuznetsov (license).

One of the most common and destructive thought habits I have ever encountered is perfectionism.

It holds you back from actually getting all the way to done with a lot in life. It may hold you back from even trying to do something because you feel you have to do it perfectly.

And it tears your self-esteem apart.

So what can you do about it?

In today’s article I would like to share 3 of the most effective things that have helped me to replace this habit with something better.

Go for good enough.

Aiming for perfection usually winds up in a project or something else never being finished. So go for good enough instead. Don’t use it as an excuse to slack off. But simply realize that there is something called good enough and when you are there then you are finished with whatever you are doing.

Good enough in this case will most often mean that you have done a very good job on an important task or project. But that you do not have to do it perfectly.

And good enough will in some cases just mean that you have done a good enough job on some small task for example. There are many things to do in life or in a week so make choices so that you can use your limited energy and time in a smart way.

Reminder: buying into myths of perfection will hurt you and your life.

By watching too many movies, listening to too many songs and just taking in what the world is telling you it is very easy to be lulled into dreams of perfection. It sounds so good and wonderful and you want it.

But in real life it clashes with reality and tends to cause much suffering and stress within you and in the people around you. It can harm or possibly lead you to end relationships, jobs, projects etc. just because your expectations are out of this world.

I find it very helpful to remind myself of this simple fact.

Whenever I get lost in a perfectionist headspace I remind myself that it will cause me and my world harm. And so it become easier to switch my focus and thought patterns because I want to avoid making unhelpful choices and avoid causing myself and other people unnecessary pain.

Set your own bar and surround yourself with human standards.

Instead of setting the bar for yourself – or letting other people set that bar – at an inhuman standard set it at a human level.

We all fail. We all have trouble reaching our goals sometimes. That is OK and very human.

Don’t obey the bar that someone else have set for you. They may have set it out of the goodness of their hearts – or not, to for example maximize profits – but if the old standards do not work for you then it is time to find a better standard for yourself.

So set the bar at a level where you feel motivated but where you do not have to achieve inhuman results to like yourself and to be satisfied.

Then choose to take small steps and day by day and week by week rearrange your world so that it becomes more and more supportive of you and of human standards.

Reduce or cut out media sources that make you feel worse or like you have to live up to perfect standards. Replace them with magazines, blogs, books etc. filled with optimism and motivation but also kinder and more realistic expectations and standards.

Do the same thing with the people in your life. Spend more time with people who are kind, who like to grow and like living a good life in a balanced, positive and mentally healthy way.

This is your life. You decide. So set and surround yourself with the standards that help you to both do good and to feel good.

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  • Joanne April 16, 2013, 12:06 pm

    Wow, this is just what I needed. One of the areas I struggle with most is pulling the trigger on something because I don’t feel like it is perfect. The result of this is usually nothing gets done. You’ve shown me that it’s much better to just be good so thank you :)

  • Abby April 19, 2013, 9:58 pm

    Thank you for the great information! I can definitely relate to this post. I’ve struggled with perfectionism for many years, and you’re right – it holds you back from actually getting all the way done with a lot in life. As a college student, I’m constantly stressed because I receive so many assignments between my six classes. I’ve been on the Dean’s List every semester in college, but I get upset with myself if I get a B in a class. This semester has taught me to “go for good enough” because I’m in such time-consuming classes. Getting into that mindset was hard at first, but it’s helped my stress levels immensely. Instead of spending all my time and energy on one project, I’ve been completing one project and moving onto the next. Great advice. Thanks again!

  • Nick Goodall April 21, 2013, 3:09 pm

    Although I like the idea of stepping away from a perfectionistic nature, and a lot of the time it would do us good – you can’t build an iPhone if you take the ‘good enough’ approach.

    Some places it has it’s uses, granted, but then I think there are times (likely more professional) that require the tiny nuances to be ironed out. But hey, that’s just my thoughts!

  • lucy May 26, 2013, 2:02 pm

    What you have said is so true, most people feel they can’t live up to the expectations of others, I know that’s how I felt for many years that I wasn’t good enough and that I couldn’t do things as perfectly as others… then I realised that how I see things about myself and how others see me are totally different, I’ve found that lots of other people feel the same about themselves when they compare themselves to me, so we all have the same worries, we are not alone… the trick is to do your best and have fun while you’re doing it, as long as it makes you happy then as far as I’m concerned that is perfection… thanks for the great Blog! can’t wait for the next instalment

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