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Does Perfectionism Ruin Your Life?

Rafi is a technologist and has a passion to write about not only technology but also what he likes doing outside of technology.


Not everyone has the same idea of what is perfect. Some measure successes by the number of mistakes they have made. They are unable to believe that learning is a process, so they do not want to let go of their perfectionism or give up on pushing themselves too hard.

Mistakes are vital for learning, growing and being human, and they usually make you better in many aspects of life, particularly your career or relationships. On the other hand, perfectionists avoid making mistakes at all costs, but going too far could lead to missed opportunities and ultimately failure.

Culturally, perfectionism is often seen as a positive. Even saying you are borderline perfectionist sounds like a self-assured answer to the "What is your weakness?" question in job interviews. The answer “I’m a bit of a perfectionist” always seems to resonate with a prevailing notion among all walks of life that it is impossible to be at the top of your career by being careless.

Let's explore the menace of being a perfectionist, and some top tips on how to overcome your perfectionist phase.


What Is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a set of beliefs that the individual or society will be more successful and happier if they can reach a goal or standard of perfection.

Who Are Perfectionists?

The perfectionist has the relentless drive to constantly improve and make things "just right."They like to create their version of what they think is a perfect life and never let themselves be satisfied with anything less. They feel that they will be judged by what they do, so they are very motivated to do well. They are usually very diligent about everything. They are often perceived as difficult to work with by others because they are so focused on the task at hand.

The Causes of a Tendency Towards Perfectionism:

Childhood Trauma

This desire to feel perfect often comes from childhood wounds or perceived inadequacies that were not healed in their primary relationships. Children who are not properly loved and cared for begin to think that they must prove their worth. An example of this is when a child might crave to be perfect after parents get divorced. His driving factor for this perfection may be that he thinks he caused the split between them, so following that idea, if he is perfect then nothing bad can happen.

Having Parents Who Were Also Perfectionists

Perfectionism can be learned by children with goal-oriented, driven parents who reward this way of thinking. Children's want for perfectionism is a natural part of the learning process, but that isn't without its risks. When parents emphasize a child's achievements rather than their efforts or progress, it can be difficult to discuss things like moving forward from mistakes and being patient with others.

Being Raised in a Culture That Emphasizes Perfectionism

Today's generation of kids is facing more stress and pressure than they ever have before. One of the main reasons for this is the way our culture pushes perfectionism. Perfectionists put pressure on themselves to be perfect at everything from schoolwork to sports, which has been proven to cause anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal. With perfectionism on full display on social media, it is similarly no surprise that young people are more conscious of how they look and act. Social media has become an ideal platform to present yourself in order to feel like you are the best version of yourself.

Cause of Concern

Mental health problems do not just cause perfectionism, but also contribute heavily to its causes. It has been found that students who had social anxiety were more likely to develop a behaviour in the future of becoming a perfectionist.

Your Inner Critic vs. Accepting Yourself as You Are

Perfectionism is a paradox. It is very hard to achieve, but in the process of working towards it, perfectionists are aware that they are not actually perfect. A Perfectionist Inner Critic believes that doing everything perfectly will have you feeling good all the time. It makes it easier to deal with criticism from others if you never make a mistake. Many may not know the perfect thing all the time or what is best for their situation. Those with early childhood trauma can feel like they do not even know what normal is all about, let alone the perfect thing.


The Perfectionist Inner Critic is damaging to the individual's life, often leading to procrastination. When a person experiences an abundance of failures, they get exhausted. Eventually, it can lead to fatigue, depression, apathy, and a state where they no longer care because they have experienced one too many failures.

Perfectionism is characterized by extreme self-scrutiny, excessive standards, and unrealistic expectations. This type of parenting pattern can cause kids to develop an internalized voice of a parent who had perfectionist tendencies. The child must always look good for others because that's what their parent would do.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy- The Two Versions of Perfectionism

Some researchers distinguish between the Healthy vs Unhealthy- The two versions of Perfectionism maladaptive (unhealthy) trait of perfectionism (e.g., feeling like one must be perfect in order to validate oneself) and adaptive (healthy) perfectionism (e.g., the goal of high performance that drives one to self-improve). However, some psychologists say that there is no such thing as "healthy" perfectionism. Consider someone striving for excellence- that could mean they are just diligently trying to do their best like other normal people.

For example, If an athlete trains hard but fails to win any medals at a contest, he might tell himself, "I am disappointed with my performance, but it is okay. I will do better in the next contest.", is healthy. If he thinks, "I am a failure, and I am not good enough," that is a sign of perfectionism.

So, it might be better to dub adaptive perfectionism as conscientiousness and goal orientation. Perfectionism does not mean working harder or aiming higher but rather seeking to please your self-critical inner voice. On the other hand, maladaptive perfectionism appears to be linked with a wide range of psychological problems. These include:

  • Procrastination
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Regret
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Self-Doubt
  • Self-Sabotage

On the other hand, there are certain psychological tendencies associated with perfectionism, one of which is thinking and emotional styles associated with being dangerous to mental health. These styles include the tendency to only focus on the negative, which is known as all-or-nothing thinking. These types of thinking lead to fear of failure, procrastination, defensiveness and low self-esteem. The perfectionist may feel like he's not good enough, but rest assured the internal critic would not let him know he did just fine.

The Three Types of Perfectionism

There are three different types of perfectionism: one is focused on society, one is focused on other people, and the third type is focused on oneself.

1-Socially Prescribed Perfectionists

Our society has a history of chronicling our personal lives and sharing them with others. This creates a culture where we are always supposed to be perfect, otherwise, others will reject us. Socially prescribed perfectionists often experience feelings of not being good enough. They worry about disappointing others, which can cause them to feel low confidence and anxiety.

Social pressures are often put on people to have unattainable physical and lifestyle standards. These pressures are felt all the way around them, through social media, TV, and magazines. They are continually showered with these concepts of perfection. There is clearly a strong link between the stress and anxiety that accompanies socially prescribed perfectionism and the ideals presented to us. It is difficult to balance these ideals with our perceived level of ability.

2- Other-Oriented Perfectionists

Perfectionists who put themselves before others can be destructive towards relationships even from the start. They struggle to find other people to connect with because their focus is usually on perfection instead of relating.

3-Self-Oriented Perfectionists

Self-oriented perfectionists are dedicated and meticulous in their work. They are able to go after their goals by setting high standards for themselves in their lives. However, when things do not go their way, the key is how well do they deal with disappointment? Nonetheless, if they are staying hopeful and determined to succeed next time, it is good. If they feel total failure, it is harmful.

7 Signs of Perfectionism

1- You Are in Constant Guilt

Perfectionists are afraid of any mistakes, especially those as small as a typo, they might feel as if they are continually failing. This can cause guilt to grow potentially making it hard to stay motivated. If you find that you often feel disappointment in the work that you put in and/or in yourself, this might be due to your perfectionism. It is important to understand the repercussions of this behaviour. It will not help anyone, especially not allow you to enjoy life.

2- You Are a Procrastinator

It is said that many people tend to avoid tasks when they are anxious. They may think that if they do not do the task, it cannot be seen as a failure. This fear of failure is one of the core aspects of harmful perfectionism and often manifests in procrastination behaviour. But this can deteriorate your work, deadlines, health, etc. And it is not worth the stress it creates!

3- You Are Defensive When Someone Criticizes You

Perfectionists may struggle to tell the difference between advice and criticism and end up blowing things out of proportion. Perfectionists are always on the lookout for ways to avoid or lessen their mistakes. So, it is common for them to take constructive criticism defensively, while people who struggle to see criticism as a valuable learning opportunity that can help them grow.

4- You Are Highly Self-Critical

While high achievers are happy with their accomplishments, perfectionists are quick to criticize their own performance and that of others. High achievers are supportive of others while perfectionists tend to be selfish at times. They are prone to criticism and hard on themselves and others when they do not hit a home run.

5- You Crave for Approval

Perfectionism can lead to perfectionists wanting from the people around them. This is especially true for adolescents, who need approval from their peers on a regular basis. If you find yourself focusing more on what people say about your efforts than on the goals, you might be perpetuating an unhealthy focus.

6- You Are Always Trying to be "Perfect"

Some people want to be perfect in their job and others just want to feel like they did an adequate effort. Whatever your goal is, it is important that you push yourself and try to be better than you thought possible.

For example, unless you are a carpenter, you should not be too disappointed when you build a shabby wardrobe that does not look as beautiful as the pictures in the magazine. If you find yourself feeling very stressed and anxious every time you miss the mark, even if it is only by one point, then you may realize that your perfectionism is harming your quality of life.

7- You Are Depressed if the Goals Are Not Met

People who push themselves to be perfect tend to be much less happy and easy-going than those with high levels of achievement. When achievers disappoint, they tend to rebound quickly. On the other hand, perfectionists feel a lot worse about themselves and their surrounding situation when they do not achieve a perfect outcome.


Do Not Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

Describing perfectionism as a trait that is both socially sanctioned and personally valued by the patient can lead to a lot of conflicting perspectives on how to treat it. It may be difficult for clinicians when deal with this. Having to deal with extreme anxiety and depression from being a perfectionist is quite common for someone to come in seeking therapy from a psychologist or therapist.

People who are perfectionists refuse to accept or take therapy for their obsessive-compulsive tendencies. They want treatment for the symptoms with no investigation of what may have caused them. Anxiety and depression are not what individuals suffer from but rather what is imposed on them by society. Perfectionists are constantly trying to attain an ideal. This idea is embedded in all of us, which leads to the concept of personal.

It can be difficult to break out of the perfectionist cycle. It is a cycle that traps you into the feeling that you must be perfect to succeed. However, there are so many ways in which your life can change.

Here Are Some Top Tips for Overcoming the Problem of Perfectionism:

  • Minimize your exposure to people who might be a source of perfectionism in your life
  • Identify your perfectionism
  • Accept that you are human, not perfect
  • Become aware of your triggers
  • Recognize the difference between "can" and "should"
  • Take care of yourself with exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep habits
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes without getting discouraged
  • Accept moments when you feel the pressure without having to immediately find a solution for it
  • Focus on what is real: There is no need for you to compare what you do with other people or even other people who have been successful in their field
  • Focus on progress, not perfection: You should celebrate your achievements and learn rather than focus on how much more there is left for you to achieve
  • Accept that it is a never-ending journey and that the only way forward is through progress
  • Be flexible: Do not set your goals too high or too low or else they will never get achieved
  • Start small: Break things down into smaller manageable tasks; ask for help from friends or family; talk about your thoughts and feelings with someone close; find a hobby that makes you happy.
  • Allow yourself to make progress at your own pace
  • Practice gratitude


Perfectionism is often a barrier to success and many people find it difficult to coordinate their actions with this trait. The key is to be mindful about how you approach the subject of perfectionism and to take a proactive approach in your life. To stop letting your inner critic get in the way of your life, start thinking about what your inner critic is trying to achieve. Rather than getting frustrated with your inner critic, look at what it's trying to teach you. There are some steps you can take to minimize the impact of perfectionism:

  • Remind yourself that your imperfections are natural parts of humanity.
  • Take care of yourself with exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep habits.
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes without getting discouraged.
  • Accept moments when you feel the pressure without having to immediately find a solution for it.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Rafi Muqaddar

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