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.


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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 Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Veniana

    Thank you! This article made me realise the core root of mybproblem right now which perfectionism. Thisbhas actually haltered my growth. God bless you!

  • Maysie

    Does anyone know how to share this post on facebook?

  • Thank you Henrik for the post! You are so right that opinions from other people have a big impact on our lives. Also, I often try to do my best in assignments in college and sometimes don’t do them on time, because I put much effort on them, good enough is really better than nothing. Also, it’s true that sometimes I think too much about the best methods to do things, but in reality I often postpone the affairs and do nothing in real life. So, I should do everything on time and in one day, otherwise it can be late.

  • Laura

    I used to think that I had to be right all of the time and I wanted to be better than someone else in a particular hobby such as basketball. But, I learned that making mistakes is okay and I do need to be doing the right thing just because I want it to be right. Thanks!

    Quick question regarding perfectionism:
    How can I simply do things at the right time at the right place if I am less worried about being perfect? And, can I improve my focus and concentration on one task or activity?

  • Wanga Mwale

    Thank you for your article. Such an inspiration. God bless you!

  • Olivia Lech

    I actually that comparing myself to myself is not a helpful habit. I will use times that I was smarter/did better/looked better etc. and that doesn’t motivate me- not sure what to do about that then?

  • Savita Liston

    Thank you. I needed this information to go forward with my life. X

  • Hello Henrik, Thank you for your excellent article. I particularly liked the section about comparing yourself to other people. It is especially important for children. It is the difference between encouragement and praise. When a child becomes dependent on praise from an adult, a parent or a teacher, they spend all their time trying to please. Encouraging them to be able to look at how far they have come will make them more self-reliant and enable them to get up again when they are knocked down by life.

  • Nice article Henrik,
    Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes. Unfortunately some people have delusions of grandeur and believe they are superior to everyone else, while others have an inferiority complex and strive for perfection.
    Do you best and be who you are, but don’t beat yourself up for your mistakes.
    R.G. Ramsey

  • Roxana

    Great article!
    An article that I will have to read every day for a while…
    Thank you!

  • Perfection is something that is unobtainable. I always go back to this amazing quote: “Never let perfection be the enemy of the good.”
    Peace and thanks for another great blog post!

  • Thank you for another great article. I’ve never seen myself as a perfectionist, but I do try to maintain a balance with striving for perfection and doing my absolute best because mediocrity is somewhere in between. I acknowledge that I’m human like everyone else and I’m capable of making mistakes. But in everything that I do, there’s always room for growth and improvement. I don’t aim to be perfect. I just want to become the best version of myself. I’m not aiming to be Mrs. Perfect, but I’m not willing to settle for mediocrity either.

  • Siddhant

    You’re the best

  • Anand Vaswani

    Hey Henrik,
    You have summarised this concept very nicely and all your points of this post are logical and relatable. Thank you for sharing this!
    Keep Sharing these thoughts and keep doing this Good Work!

  • Habits is what makes a men perfect.