To overcome perfectionism is to be free from pressures that have made us become critical and unforgiving of others and even ourselves.

overcome perfectionism

Have you ever asked yourself why you strive to be perfect?

Most times, you are too critical of yourself which causes more pain than it’s worth and so it is important to know how to combat this need for perfectionism. You see, this one is tough, I still have days when I struggle with it and that is overcoming my need for perfection. For as long as I can remember, to be perfect was just what was expected, for me it was the expectation to be the perfect daughter; this meant the right weight, grades, ambition, and all at perfect timing; yes the timing had to be perfect!

And I thought nothing of it. I did an even better job of self-bashing when I didn’t hit the mark. If  I crept to a Uk size 14 the starvation began and the gruelling regime of exercise, why? Because well I believed love and success was only for certain type of woman. And as I got older I began to attract people who confirmed my conditioning but I still thought nothing of it, I simply worked harder to be perfect. I would be praised when I got it right and it fuelled this vicious cycle.

Until I started to ask myself questions like why were people whose lives were a mess demanding mine be perfect? Or why were men with atrocious character and zero ambition trying to convince me that I needed their approval? And who did all this self-torture benefit? Because I was tired of trying to be a quiet, unopinionated does not go for second helpings at a party girl!

No in my moment of frustration I decided to take a deeper look at what was at play and realised I was suffering from a conditioning that made me believe that to be good enough and be accepted I had to be perfect. From here I was able to work through this and quash that belief to pieces and I am here to help you do the same.

What is Perfectionism?

Defined as the “combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations”.

Perfectionism simply put is when one imposes an unrealistic set of standards on themselves. And it isn’t just in relation to academics it can affect all aspects of your life. Perfectionism was further classified by Gordon Flett and Paul Hewitt into three subgroups: “self-oriented perfectionism”, “other-orientated perfectionism” and “socially prescribed perfectionism” The latter being identified as the most detrimental to one’s health.

 This is when “individuals believe their social context is excessively demanding, that others judge them harshly and that they must display perfection to secure approval” and unfortunately its one thanks to our social media-focused society we all get exposed to. Meaning often we all need to find a way to overcome the need for perfection.

Now, perhaps you’re asking, but perfectionism is good, indeed when you get the classic “what is your weakness?” in an interview we all pitch up with “I can be a bit of a perfectionist”. Sad thing is more of us actually are just not in the stay up and get the paper in kind of way. There is a difference between being hard working, high achieving to being unable to accept the possibility that we can be excellent but not perfect or that we will not meet everybody’s approval. It becomes a problem when you live in constant fear of getting it wrong or meeting disapproval.

overcome perfectionism

What Harm Can Striving For Perfectionism Cause?

When your life becomes about taking the perfect selfie, having the perfect partner, family, weight, job and so on it can lead to a host of physical and mental problems.

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Anxiety

 Perfectionism can prevent you from creating and living a life filled with love and joy.

  • It can affect your ability to build relationships when there is a belief that your partner must be perfect and any fault simply won’t be tolerated. Life simply becomes painful and frankly miserable when you can’t switch off for fear that someone just might realise that you’re not the perfect picture you portray.
  • It further distorts your reality when one starts to believe that perfection exists and is attainable.

In a 2016 meta-analysis, Andrew Hill and Thomas Curran found that people who were classified as ‘maladaptive’ perfectionists suffered significant levels of burnout.

Another study found that over half the people who died by suicide were described by loved ones as perfectionists. Not only has Psychology shown to overcome perfectionism can prevent harm to our mental health, but it also benefits our personal lives and physical health.

Why You Can't Overcome Perfectionism

Just as it’s important to know the problem it is just as important to know the cause so as to heal or prevent a relapse.

My need for perfectionism was conditioned from childhood, growing up in a culture that demands excellence in all areas. If you’re not careful this can become interpreted via the pressures placed on the child and the child’s understanding as an encouragement to aspire to perfection.

Other possible causes or triggers include

  • Abuse- often occurring during childhood
  • Social media
  • Peer pressure

Do some introspective work and it may need to be with a therapist to figure out why you believe that you are only enough when you obtain perfection.

It may be that you never even considered like I did that the need for perfection was something negative or holding you captive. You may not have even realised that your continued fear of food and abuse of your body holds at its core your need to be seen as perfect. But the good news is that I have proven tips on how to overcome perfectionism.


overcome perfectionism

How to overcome Perfectionism

Firstly realise that it’s a massive step to get here where you realise that maybe you can be happier if you decide to live your life in a different way. Take a moment to feel that- empowerment that comes from knowing that this realisation that you struggle with the need for perfection is not a failure but actually you taking back control in your life. And here is how.

1. Therapy

it may be that the cause of your drive for perfectionism comes from abuse or deep trauma that only therapy can help you unpack and start the healing. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of about having therapy, just like we would have a plaster cast to heal a broken bone, when our minds have been affected we need appropriate treatment.

2. Adjust your lens

By removing your fear of failure and accepting that sometimes we will get it wrong and that actually this is ok. That this is the opportunity to learn or change focus. Furthermore, acknowledge and repeat that there is only one person who is perfect and that is GOD!

3. Do not set your happiness on the  approval of others

Trust me when you do this not only will you invite toxic people into your life but worse you will actually never be happy. So don’t bother, please God, yourself, and those who love you and have good intentions for you.

4. Be gentle to yourself and turn off your inner critique

I can’t begin to explain how vital self-compassion is in the process of healing and living a fulfilled life. On days when I start to think that my imperfection is the cause of something I feel I lack I challenge my mind and I consciously choose to do something loving for myself.

5. Practice Mindfulness and Gratitude

Another way to bring yourself back to the present and to remember how beautiful you are is to practice mindfulness. Meditation is a great way to still your mind and appreciate the moment. With this recall all you have to be grateful for not what you perceive you lack.

6. “Strive for progress, not perfection” Joyce Meyer

That’s right aim to do your best not to be perfect. Be it perfect by what others think or an impossible definition of what standard you must achieve. Instead, focus on doing better than you did yesterday and aim for your definition of excellence. 

 7. Celebrate being an imperfect human being

Once I accepted that hang on I’m human and actually, that means imperfect I started to say middle finger to anyone who tried to make me feel less and walk away from any situation that brought back my previous need to aim for perfection.

8. Don’t take life too seriously

I mean this, this life was meant to be a journey of purpose, of constant gratitude and acceptance regardless of the ups and downs. It was meant to be one in which we laughed a lot more than we cried so it simply isn’t worth thinking that perfection will for instance change the fact that we have but a short and beautiful moment on this earth. So don’t waste it, choose instead to create joy and be love.

9. Love is the goal

Remember what life is truly about and that is love.

Yes, achievements are good; success, money, and beauty but love is the ultimate goal. There is nothing worth more than to be loved for who we are so make that the goal. To be open for love and to give love and believe your imperfections are what makes us more interesting to love.

I hope this has given you some practical ways to overcome perfectionism and remember progress is all you need to make in achieving this.

Perfectionism can be stressful most times so that’s why you need to use these 12 tips to destress!

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Hi! I'm Dr Jessica

I share my expertise as a Family Physician to provide you with the support and tools to a holistic lifestyle.

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