Perfectionism can lead to you failing to achieve the goals you set for yourself. Discover the signs of perfectionism and how to overcome perfectionism.

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How to overcome perfectionism

No matter what you do in life, you always want to achieve high standards. That’s an admirable quality. However, the constant search for perfection can affect your mental health. Every imperfection in your work could begin to lead to a severe bout of self-criticism and you may find it difficult to let go and allow yourself to make mistakes.

Your fear of failure could also lead to negative thought patterns that hold you back from being a high achiever. This is why you need to recognize the signs of perfectionism and do something about them.

The importance of recognizing the signs of perfectionism

Being a perfectionist results in setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. The problem is that these expectations are impossible to achieve, creating a cycle of attempts and failures that negatively impact your self-worth.

Recognizing the signs of perfectionism is the first step to letting go of perfectionistic thinking. By letting go, you escape negative self-talk and set the stage for achieving your goals.

Common signs of perfectionism

How do you know if you have high expectations you can’t reach? Perfectionist behavior comes with common signs to keep an eye on.

You burnout regularly

You work so hard that your perfectionistic tendencies affect your well-being. The result is that you’re constantly exhausted, physically and mentally. You don’t have the energy to do anything because you’ve pushed yourself too hard.

Procrastination becomes a problem

You know you have a project to complete. The problem is that you struggle to get started. Your perfectionist thoughts make the task seem more intimidating than it really is.

Instead of trying and failing, you decide not to try at all. Your unrealistic standards cause you to stop working rather than overworking toward an unrealistic goal.

Alternatively, you get wrapped up in other activities rather than working toward your goal. For example, many perfectionists spend a lot of time on social media when procrastinating.

You get defensive over feedback

Feeling a little upset if somebody says something negative about our work is natural. However, perfectionists struggle to let go of negative feedback. They become overly defensive and may lash out when provided with constructive feedback.

You crave approval

Closely tied to defensive reactions to negative feedback is the need for approval. You feel like you need other people’s approval to help you overcome the self-doubt that plagues your work.

Sadly, this sign is also tied to having low self-esteem because you may tie your opinion of yourself to the views of others.

It’s always all or nothing

No matter what you do, you always have to give it your all. The problem here is that your perfectionism leads to you never feeling satisfied.

Nearly perfect isn’t enough.

You struggle to see the big picture regarding your achievements, leading to you getting tied up in making every little thing perfect.

You have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

OCD causes repetitive thoughts and behaviors, leading to its close links to perfectionist behavior. You may have the condition if you recognize any of the following symptoms in yourself:

  • A need for order or symmetry

  • The fear of harming yourself or others

  • Compulsive behavior when it comes to:

    • Hand washing

    • Cleaning

    • Counting

    • Hoarding

    • Arranging

    • Ordering

Fear pushes you

High achievers feel pulled toward their goals by their desire to achieve them.

Perfectionists experience the opposite sensation. Their fear of failure pushes them to overwork until they perfectly meet their goal. There’s no such thing as “good enough” because fear forces them to keep moving long past when they should stop.

Tips on overcoming perfectionism

You need to let go of perfectionism, as it’s one of the bad habits that can prevent you from reaching your goals. With these tips, you’ll start showing yourself some self-compassion and be able to set goals that you end up achieving.

Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on helping you to reframe your thoughts while helping you understand the reasons why you have those thoughts.

This psychological treatment is a talking therapy that focuses on behavioral patterns. Techniques include:

  • Learning to face your fears rather than run from them

  • Using techniques to calm your mind and body

  • Role-playing interactions to help you see why perfectionism is so damaging

Pause and think

Being aware of your perfectionism is a crucial step for overcoming it.

If you’ve identified yourself as a perfectionist, pause and reflect on your thought patterns. Consider writing them down while having conversations with yourself about how those patterns lead to bad habits.

Awareness lays the groundwork for any effort you make to overcome your perfectionism.

Focus on the positives

Your conscientiousness makes you want to do your best in everything you try.

That’s a good thing.

However, there’s a difference between doing your best and achieving perfection. Whenever you complete a project, look back and think about the positives. Ask yourself what you achieved and how that achievement helps.

By focusing on the positive, you move away from negative thought patterns.

Eliminate negative influences

Television, social media, and even podcasts can serve as distractions used to justify procrastination. All can also lead to receiving messages about “hustle culture” that push you toward working harder.

If you feel that a TV show or influencer has a negative effect on your thought patterns, stop engaging with them.

Choosing Speechify as a productivity hack to overcome perfectionism

Your perfectionism may cause you to get tied up reading tons of material while working on a project. A text to speech (TTS) app like Speechify can help in these situations.

Speechify reads any digital text you’re working with aloud. Perfectionists can use it to slow themselves down while remaining productive. With TTS, you can start enjoying your work rather than feverishly reading digital text.

Speechify is available for Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows devices. It comes with dozens of natural-sounding voices and is available to try for free today.


Can perfectionism be overcome?

It’s possible to overcome perfectionism with techniques that help you to overcome negative thought patterns.

What is the root cause of perfectionism?

The root cause of perfectionism varies, though it often comes down to a fear of failure.

What are the three types of perfectionism?

Dr. Gordon Flett and Dr. Paul Hewitt defined three forms of perfectionism:

  • Socially prescribed perfectionism

  • Self-oriented perfectionism

  • Other-oriented perfectionism

Is perfectionism a mental illness?

Perfectionism isn’t a mental illness. However, it can cause mental health problems and is sometimes linked to OCD.

What do perfectionists fear?

Perfectionists often fear failure.

What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism?

Healthy perfectionism drives you to do the best you can. Unhealthy perfectionism forces you to overwork to the point of exhaustion.

Is there a cure for perfectionism?

While there is no specific cure for perfectionism, there are several techniques you can use to reduce its effects.

What are the benefits of overcoming perfectionism?

Improvements in mental well-being and reaching the goals you set for yourself are vital benefits of overcoming perfectionism.

Does perfectionism cause anxiety?

Perfectionism can cause anxiety, though not in all cases.

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