Are You a Perfectionist? 5 Tips to Identify and Overcome Perfectionism Disorder

Are You a Perfectionist? 5 Tips to Identify and Overcome Perfectionism Disorder

Jessica, a life-long perfectionist, begins her day in her bustling office with a meticulously planned to-do list. Sitting at her desk, she arranges her stationery symmetrically, carefully reviews her emails, and double-checks for any typos before hitting the send button. Even the tiniest mistake makes her anxious, so she spends extra time perfecting her responses.

During a team meeting, Jessica can’t help but feel on edge. She takes detailed notes, and when her turn comes to present her project, she feels a knot in her stomach, worrying that her work may not be up to her impossibly high standards. Despite receiving praise from her colleagues, she finds it hard to accept their compliments, constantly feeling there’s something more she could have done to improve.

As the day progresses, Jessica is intensely focused on her tasks, constantly tweaking and refining her work. She declines invitations to socialize with colleagues, fearing that any distractions might compromise the quality of her output.

She’s physically and mentally exhausted when she leaves the office. Her pursuit of perfection has drained her, and she knows she’ll have to do it again the next day. Despite the success and recognition she receives for her impeccable work, she can’t help but wonder if this relentless quest for flawlessness is genuinely worth the toll it takes on her well-being.

If Jessica’s daily routine resonates with you, you may be a perfectionist. Perfectionism is the overwhelming desire not to make mistakes. Though sometimes praised as a good thing, overdoing it can make you miserable as you constantly reach for an impossible goal.

Negative perfectionism harms our health and may be more detrimental to a successful life than most people realize. Find out the most common traits of perfectionism and how you can overcome this disorder.

Are You a Perfectionist?

Perfectionists may negatively judge their work as all good or all bad.


Perfectionists may negatively judge their work as all good or all bad.

If you are worried that you may be a perfectionist, chances are you are. Despite the word “perfect” in “perfectionism,” it is not always positive. This personality trait can contribute to health issues like eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Identifying unhealthy perfectionism is a positive first step towards overcoming the strain of your expectations. How to recognize the struggle of perfectionism:

1. Fear of Failure

An intense fear of failure drives perfectionists. Many perfectionists fear making mistakes and may avoid certain tasks unless conditions are right to ensure minimal chances of failure. This fear can lead to stagnation and even crippling anxiety. Additionally, as it so often happens with self-fulfilling prophecies, perfectionists may fail due to unrealistic goals and self-doubt.

2. Procrastination

Due to fear of failure, people with perfectionism may procrastinate getting started on their responsibilities. These individuals overthink the results rather than enjoy the process of achieving their goals. This infatuation with what may or may not happen can lead to unnecessary delays in getting started.

3. Harsh Self-Criticism

A significant hallmark of socially prescribed perfectionism is harsh self-criticism. We all criticize ourselves occasionally, but with maladaptive perfectionism, individuals tend to be overly hard on themselves, which can be damaging. Social interactions turn into a minefield of anxiety from perceived external criticism. Perfectionists tend to strive to be at their best and may suffer from low self-confidence from fear of rejection.

4. All-Or-Nothing Thinking

All-or-nothing thinking could be an indicator of perfectionism. People with perfectionist tendencies view things in terms of opposites. For example, you may postpone the day’s tasks simply because you missed the alarm. It can also manifest in interpersonal relationships. People with extreme thoughts, such as, “They never ask how I’m feeling,” may be perfectionists.

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How to Overcome Perfectionism

Group therapy provides a sense of belonging and encouragement.

Group therapy provides encouragement and a
sense of belonging.

Perfectionism can be an indicator of a mental health disorder. Living in a perpetual state of fear of failure, criticism, and disappointment is bound to lead to misery. If you are a perfectionist, you may try to control everything around you to ensure it’s perfect, which can cost you relationships and take a toll on your mental health.

The good news is that it’s never too late to change and escape the trap of perfectionism.

Here are our top five tips:

1. Recognize and Challenge Perfectionistic Thoughts

Changing our thought patterns begins with self-awareness. You can work around perfectionistic tendencies by actively paying attention to thoughts that demand the best of everything. Embrace being good enough and accept that no one is perfect.

2. Set Realistic Goals and Expectations

People with self-oriented perfectionism tend to have unrealistic expectations of themselves. Expecting nothing but perfection from yourself can harm your self-esteem, as you will eventually be unable to meet these expectations.

Overcome the hurt of perfectionism by setting realistic goals. Manage your expectations to curb negative perfectionistic traits.

3. Work on All-Or-Nothing Thinking

You can work on negative beliefs by tuning in to your thoughts. When something happens, beware of negative thoughts that veer on the extreme, such as “they never” and “they always.” Work on rephrasing this pattern of ideas by looking on the brighter side. Here is a more detailed approach to practicing positive thinking.

4. Exercise Self-Compassion

Exercise self-compassion by accepting that you are only human and we all make mistakes. The greatest of the great, including famous figures like Ali Mohammed, spent hundreds of hours crafting their skills, and they still stumbled now and then.

Learn to reject perfectionistic concerns, such as unrealistic expectations, and accept that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Adapting to changes is better than striving to do every task perfectly and dropping the ball when something goes wrong.

5. Seek Support and Perspective

The root cause of unhealthy perfectionism may vary depending on the individual. Seeking professional help is crucial to identifying and addressing perfectionistic behavior. Tools such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and support groups can help you exercise healthy perfectionism by addressing the root cause of this disorder.

Overcome Perfectionism With the Right Support

Remember, perfectionism can be debilitating, but with the right support, strategies, and a community of like-minded individuals, you can conquer the negative self-talk and embark on a journey toward a healthier and more balanced mindset.

Your pursuit of perfection doesn’t have to be a solitary one; help and understanding are within reach. Here are some helpful resources:

    1. Youth Crisis Hotline.
      This is a 24-hour hotline for any crisis – from pregnancy to drugs to depression.
      Call 1-800-448-4663 or Text DESERVE to 741-741.

    1. Call 211 for bilingual referral to services for basic needs like mental health, rent, utilities, and transportation. 

    1. Tarrant Cares
      This is an online info service for individuals, families, caregivers, and agencies, providing assistance with mental health issues and substance use.
      Text FIND to 67629.

    1. Suicide Hotline.
      1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
    2. More tips in this visual illustration on how to tell if you’re a perfectionist.

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