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, 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.

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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109 comments… add one
  • Dorothy

    Wow, Henrik, is your article timely ! I recently was struck by the fact that I have all of these ideas about what is “my” definition of “Perfect” and when I myself as well as other people don’t measure up to my impossibly loftly standards, I am always disappointed. But worse than that, I have caught myself second-guessing myself AFTER an event has occurred and I over-analyze and over-evaluate “I should have said that,” or “I should have done that,” or “Why didn’t it occur to me to say (or do) that ?” I find myself back-tracking when instead, I just need to “Let it GO” which is very hard for me. But now that I recognize these tendencies within myself, I am trying to give myself and other folks more slack and acceptance to let things JUST BE !!

    • Anonymous

      I hear what you are saying. I’m exactly the same, trying to move forward in life without thing negative things about myself. Henrick posts helps me to recognise certain things I do. .

  • Rodovaldo Avila Sosa

    Men, You are right, we have to stop letting ourselves be led by what others think about us, and stop wasting time in perfecting things that are good as they are. Thanks for the great content

  • Ana

    Thank-you for your article. God bless you.

  • Jan

    Thank you Henrik, more spot on advice. I have struggled with perfectionism most of my life, always telling myself that it was just about striving to do my best. I realise now that I’ve often had unrealistic expectations and been (and continue to be) overly self-critical – but it’s impossible to live up to such high expectations all of the time. Work in progress, but it certainly helps to read your tips and remember that we’ll all human and perfectly imperfect.

  • Really liked the first advice. As a blogger who has just recently launched a blog, I experiment with the layout quite often (MUST reflect my personality ?), leaving me little or no time to do the actual writing. Thanks for the article!

  • Thank you for this post. I like the 5 point – Do what you think is the right thing. It’s so hard for me. I always overthink and ask other people what should I do, never listen to myself.

    • Juventius

      Thanks for writing this article. You’re a legend, Henrik!

  • Thanks for writing this!

    I can identify with being a perfectionist and I find that what seems to also help me is to get out of my head.

    A lot of times I get stuck in this negative cycle of perfectionist thoughts because I allow myself to stay in my head and entertain those thoughts for far too much.

    I just need a mental slap every now and again and tell myself,
    “Stop thinking now!”

  • Nice article. Well written. It is true that many people waste their time and lose out the opportunities in trying to be a perfectionist. But competing with ourselves helps us to become a better version of ourselves.

  • Continue your great work!! You are an inspiration

  • Santanu

    A great salute to you again.

  • Anna

    Thanks for the good advice yes, look at yourself and how far you have come and strive to do better today than yesterday.

  • Anonymous

    Hello sir, your blogs are always helpful to me, I started improvement after reading the emails on daily basis, these act as a booster for me.
    Thank you sir very much.

  • Thank you Henrik. This came to me at just the right time. I’ve embarked on a new blog (, and feeling a bit discouraged by its slow growth. Perfectionism, fear of failure and imposter syndrome all seem to be rearing their ugly heads right about now. I really needed these reminders. Thank you.

  • namasivayam.s

    Sir, Thank You Very Much. I was greatly benefitted by the Blog.
    I pray God to bless you.

  • Awesome article! Thanks for your valuable words.

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