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, causing self-doubt 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.

How to Overcome Perfectionism: 6 Powerful Habits

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 and 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 and self-confidence 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.

About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehack, The Huffington Post and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thanks Henrik for this article , i am finding something like that, the 4th point is very good comparing yourself to yourself.
    This article is very helpfull to me

  • Great Sharing I Like your article. Its too much good.

  • thank-you so much for this Henrik

  • Waiting to become perfect before doing things will only keep you moving in circles and eventually it will end up not going as planned. One thing that I have learned in life is to always do what you can and you will learn from there. Great article and thanks for sharing.

  • Ranjan Venkatesh

    Thank you for this good article

  • Kabiru Ali

    Thanks so much for the article. God bless.


    Hi Henrik, thank you for sharing this, the first two bullet points of number 4 really resonated with me.

  • karin l bendel

    Thanks, Henrick, this is spot on and I am saving it to read again and again. I love your emails and have learned so much. Thank you for sharing them with those that are in need of a better way.


  • McLane

    This could not have come at a better point in my life. I’ve always been a perfectionist of sorts, and I am just starting my passion to produce music. I’ve started far to many projects that I have abandoned because I became too caught up in my ridiculously high standards. I’ve been starting to drift away from a project I started last week that I was really into at the start, and this just re-vitalized my passion to keep working on it. Thank you!

  • Thanks. Good post. I am learning not to dwell on one thing and be calm. It’s hard, getting rid of the habit.

  • Leonie Egan

    I am an astrologer and spiritualist and I read your articles with avid interest. Today you are talking about one twelveth of the world…the VIRGOs. They are wonderful and necessary in the working world with their need for exactness but are hell to live with when no one else in the family meets up with their desires to have everything in its place! Bravo. Keep up the good work of keeping us sane.

  • Stella

    This sounds so much like me. I routinely feel like I have to do everything perfectly, and oftentimes it gets quite stressful. Then when I see I made a mistake, it hits me a bit harder than it should. I love how you talk about us comparing ourselves to ourselves. I think it is better that we focus on positive self-betterment instead of unrealistic perfectionism. Thanks for this post.