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How to Overcome Perfectionism: 6 Powerful Habits

How to Overcome Perfectionism: 6 Powerful Habits

“Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks.”
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it.”
Edith Schaeffer

One of the most common challenges that people email me about – and I myself have had quite a bit of trouble with – is perfectionism.

It's an issue that can hold you back in life. Not only from achieving and finishing what you want.

But sometimes from even getting started. While at the same time draining your self-esteem and getting you stuck in a negative spiral where it can become harder and harder to start moving forward.

So today I'd like to share 6 things that have helped me – and still helps me to this day – with this destructive and distracting thought habit.

1. 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.

So find a balance for yourself where you do good work and don’t slack off but at the same time don’t get lost in trying to improve and polish something too much.

How to find that balance? I have found my own balance through trial and error and experience.

2. Realize that you hurt yourself and the people around you by buying into myths of perfection.

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.
  • 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 these simple facts.

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 thoughts because I want to avoid making destructive choices and avoid causing myself and the people closest to me unnecessary pain.

3. Accept that you are human and so are everyone else.

Set human standards for everyone and accept that life is like that.

Everything and everyone has flaws and things don’t always go as planned. You can still improve things but they will never be perfect.

And realize that you won’t be rejected if things or you aren't perfect.

At least not by reasonably well-balanced human beings, like most people actually are in reality.

4. Compare yourself to yourself.

Comparing yourself to other people on a regular basis can easily lead to feeling inferior. There will always be a lot of people ahead of you in any area of life.

So compare yourself to yourself…

  • See your improvement, see how far you have come.
  • Look back at what you have overcome.
  • Appreciate yourself and focus what you have done and are doing rather than what everyone else is doing.

5. Do what you think is the right thing.

So you realize that perfectionism will harm you and you try to avoid it. But people and media and the society around you have an influence over how you think and feel.

One of the best ways I have found to practically lessen that influence is by doing the right thing as much as possible.

When you do that other people’s expectations have less and less power over you and you take more charge of your life.

Because by doing the right thing your self-esteem goes up and other people’s opinions about you and life will matter less to you.

You have become stronger, more certain in who you are and you are not so easily swayed by external forces.

6. Shape an environment of human standards around you.

Emotions are contagious. So is perfectionism.

And even though you can lessen the impact that your environment has you can also work at the other end of things.

You can reshape your environment by for example:

Reducing or cutting out the sources that try to reinforce perfectionism in you.

Take a little time to review what websites, magazines, podcasts, TV-shows and books you spend a lot of time with. Take a look at if they have realistic and positive expectations or views on you and on life.

And if not, choose to spend more of your time with the sources that lift you up and support you.

Spending less time with nervously perfectionistic people.

And more of your time each week with people who are trying to improve themselves and/or are living a good life in a positive, healthy and relaxed way.

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{ 87 comments… add one }
  • Susana

    Gracias Henrik por tan maravilloso artìculo,me hace mucho bien,me resulta muy ùtil todo lo que envìas,nuevamente gracias!

  • Cecilia Groesbeck

    Thanks Hendrik! I have always struggled with perfection and people pleasing. I have been working on this issue and have given myself permission to let I to go. Your suggestions I will add to my self help info.

  • Titilope

    Nice article with great insight. Thanks.

  • Deepa

    Some great tips.!!! Thank you :)

  • Anonymous

    Good enough

  • MJ

    Hey Henrik—- LOVE your posts….please make them easily printable!! I love to print them to read before bedtime….not so easily done in this format. Thanks!

  • superb work!!! keep it up!!

  • It’s really hard to overcome perfectionism. Recently I tried to do all my stuff for my project within one day and I did this day by day. The result was a depressing feeling because it wasn’t possible to do all this tasks and do them all in an satisfying way. Now I’m writing down three targets I want to reach during one day. And when I reach them I stop working and do something else. But it’s important to make clear targets that are actually reable and they have to be composed clearly that you see immediately when you reached them.

  • It is quite tough to deal with the habits to overcome on this but perfectionism habits are the best way as I think.

  • Bill

    Thank you for the good reminders. Trying for perfect has caused me problems my whole life: missed opportunities, projects unfinished, etc. my (adult) son and I built a chicken coop and when I would start to put too much into details, or worry over some little thing, he say “Dad, it’s a chicken coop!” That’s now my reminder to my self. There’s a place for fretting, but most things are like the chicken coop. Close enough is good enough. And the chickens are happy.

  • YES YES YES! I wrote a blog post about this too. I called it “Recovering Overachiever”. The need for perfection is such a self defeating desire for folks. It’s stressful. But I love how you made the steps so simple. http://www.yourcharmingway.com/2018/06/27/recovering-overachiever/

  • I have read and appreciated your article. I think that even a defeat can be useful. Aiming for perfection can make you forget the importance of a fall, especially in training and strengthening your character.

  • This information is very beneficial for us. Thank you.

  • Comparison is the thief of joy, they say! Thanks for this, I’m super competitive and I think that’s a tad harmful. This makes me mindful of a lot of aspects in my life.

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