Overcoming Perfectionism: 24 Quick Tips [Works!]
How can you overcome perfectionism? What causes Perfectionism? What are the characteristics of perfectionism? In this article you will find tips and exercises to tackle and overcome the perfectionist in you.
What is Perfectionism and Perfectionist Behavior?
Do you have perfectionist behavior ? Then I want to congratulate you on your talent . You will (will) belong to the top gymnasts, top tennis players, top entrepreneurs and other most successful people in the world. However, the talent of perfectionism has pitfalls that achieve the opposite effect …
Perfectionism means that you want to do everything perfectly. You think it will yield you more, but in reality it will cost you more and make your life unnecessarily difficult. We can go into the meaning longer, but let’s quickly get to the tips for overcoming perfectionism.
Want to unlearn and let go of perfectionism? All tips…
Let’s get right on with all the tips to tackle and overcome perfectionism …
Tip 1 – The most important tip is: deal with the unconscious cause of perfectionism
Do you want to tackle perfectionism in a logical, conscious way? Then it is as if you are rowing against the current. It’s much easier to get that unconscious undercurrent in the right direction. This allows you to tackle perfectionism through the subconscious mind . For 99% we are driven by unconscious patterns.
One way to do that is to look at the positive intent of your perfectionism. It once served a purpose for you, that perfectionism. But in the meantime it has become something that you keep doing unconsciously. So process it appropriately, for example by reframing the good intent of perfectionism .
Often that good intention is: certainty . When something is perfect, you know exactly what to expect. Perfect is perfect and you know exactly what you are getting. This, for example, can avoid disappointment and vulnerability. With reframing, you are going to create new, positive choices to satisfy that good intention, instead of perfectionism.
Perfectionism is the ultimate form of insecurity.
Another way to deal with the unconscious cause of perfectionism is to process the emotion of the fear or other unresolved emotions.
The next tip also works on an unconscious level …
Tip 2 – Know the most common cause of perfectionism: fear
The cause of perfectionism is often fear . Fear of having or showing imperfections . This fear is deeply linked to the ego. Fear and ego are almost synonymous. So whenever perfectionism shows up, it is the ego’s turn.
The ego wants to complete things. But is something ever ‘finished’? Is everything ever super clear to you? It can always be more ‘finished’, and more clear.
Tip 3 – Deal with guilt: who do you owe it to do everything perfectly?
Perfectionism has a subconscious link with feelings of guilt. When you let go of your guilt feelings, you no longer feel the urge to do things perfectly. One of the best ways to let go of guilt is to learn the lessons from the situations you feel guilty about. Go straight to the detailed explanation for dealing with guilt feelings.
Tip 4 – Make these affirmations to overcome perfectionism
Affirm the following:
- I am enough.
- I am capable.
- I’m real.
- I matter.
- I love myself.
- I am valuable.
- And all my aspects can be there.
Tip 5 – Banish all ‘musts’ from your life
If you take a moment to reflect on your life and who you are, could you see that you don’t owe anyone anything? Could it be that you don’t ‘have to’ anything at all?
- ‘It absolutely has to be done before it can start.’
- “I must have a reason to be happy.”
- “I have to earn it.”
- “I have to be perfect.”
- “I have to be in a relationship.”
- “I shouldn’t have a rash on my face.”
Just open up a little bit and see the change it will bring in the next moment when you feel obligated to do something.
Tip 6 – Undo your identification as a perfectionist
You’re not a perfectionist at all. If you look at the logical level model , the identity level has a lot of power. Don’t give that power to perfectionism.
Perfectionist, people pleaser, procrastinator, not good enough … Do you really think that’s what you are? Say, “No, I’m not a perfectionist.”
Tip 7 – Growth > perfection: just start working on something for 5 minutes
Some perfectionists can postpone things over and over again because they want to get it right one day. If you do this, a lot will pass you by. On the one hand because you rarely take action, and on the other because your efficiency is low. If you put things off for a long time and take a long time to do things, you will have less time for other things.
If you don’t already take the first step … How are you ever supposed to achieve a goal?
The solution? Don’t wait until you have an entire afternoon or half an hour for your task, but just take the first steps in the 5 minutes you have. This has two special powers:
- The first strength of this tip is that you have already taken the first step immediately: things have already just started! There has been action!
- The second strength of this tip is that you do n’t put things off until it can be done ‘perfectly’. So you get a lot more things done!
If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.
– Olin Miller
You don’t have to see the entire staircase to take the first step.
– Martin Luther King
Amateurs stay in their seats and wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and get to work.
A year from now, you wish you had started today.
– Karen Lamb
Go for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong or you would lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear is always behind perfectionism.
– David M. Burns
Waiting for perfection is never as smart as making progress.
– Seth Godin
The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
– Agatha Christie
The best way to get something done … is to start . Focus on growth, not perfection!
Tip 8 – A perfectionist thinks: ‘all or nothing’ – You think: just do it
Perfectionists will think, “If I can’t do this in a perfect way, I’d rather not do it.” As a result, they ultimately do very little: they get little surprise and adventure. Life is quite boring if you rarely let yourself be surprised and do not embark on adventures.
There are no happy perfectionists.
By now you know better: you carry out an accessible action, experiment, discover and in no time you will be well on your way. In fact, where the perfectionist gave up, you just got something done.
Done is better than perfect.
Doing something at all is better than doing something perfect.
To dare is to do.
– Motto of the London football club Tottenham Hotspur
If not us, who? If not now, when?
– Hillel the Elder
Tip 9 – Your 80% is being someone else 110%
In perfectionist behavior, we see that people keep on perfecting and expanding things endlessly. They want to excel. If you have perfectionism, you probably deliver excellent quality! This is a blessing and one of your strengths.
Eighty is powerful.
– Eelco de Boer
So know that you have a lot of play and make use of it! Even if you sit at 80% of what you normally do, you still deliver top quality! You can safely take a step back.
Any kind of water extinguishes a fire.
– African saying
Also, think about this: no one else does it perfectly. And that makes sense, because perfection cannot be achieved : it is an illusion. So what are all these other people doing who aren’t doing it perfectly (and don’t have perfectionism either)? They are doing ‘just fine’ and they are benefiting from it. Do it ‘just right’ and enjoy the results!
No one else does it perfectly.
Tip 10 – Perfect is the enemy of good
You don’t have to be the best, but you do have to be good enough.
Know that you probably won’t do things right if you want to do it perfectly … because there are two options if you want to do it perfectly:
- Either you do it perfectly, but it won’t be finished for another year.
- Or you prepare yourself for it for so long (you really have to spend a whole day doing it yourself …) that it could actually be done well last week just by starting …
Dont make perfect the enemy of the good.
Playing soccer is very simple, but the hardest thing there is is simple soccer.
– Johan Cruijff
Use the talents you have. Our forests will be very quiet if no bird would sing except those few birds that sing best.
– Henry van Dyke
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough yourself.
– Albert Einstein
Tip 11 – Make ‘small action’ your mantra
You know it: you want to process new habits in your life, such as fitness, meditation, a new hobby or a morning ritual … And you put it off until you find that you really have the time or mental / released physical energy for it.
The small moment of ‘the now’ is seen as insufficient. The underlying sentiment is: I am not enough yet, and therefore I cannot be joyful.
This is one of the great pitfalls of perfectionists: there is no action, but there is always a wait until it can be applied integrally … Fortunately, there is a very simple solution: small action .
If you wait until you are ready, you will wait for the rest of your life.
Do you really want to go to the gym regularly? That is not at all important if you just hang on the weights for 15 minutes now . That complete morning ritual you ever really want to integrate into your life? Forget it! Just do that single pushup this morning that is in that morning ritual and let the rest sit.
How great it is that no one has to wait even a moment to start making the world a better place!
– Anne Frank
Guess! You just got right into your fitness lifestyle and morning ritual! Otherwise you would have put it off for months. So think: small action.
What small step can I take now to make the situation a little better? That could be: putting the chip bag away, turning off Netflix and going to the abs half hour. You have only been one evening now, but the neural path has been laid. The next steps, for example to also go tomorrow, are now easier.
More about ‘small action’? Check out this article on Kaizen and this article on changing habits.
Tip 12 – Don’t have perfect planning and preparation: be open to new things!
Do you know the saying, “Move before you’re ready”? Perhaps that statement is even deeper than you think: it may even be impossible to be completely ready .
Man was born to live, not to prepare for life.
– Boris Pasternak
The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s eleven thirty.
– Lorne Michaels, maker van Saturday Night Live
It is impossible to be prepared down to the last detail. You can be very clear and know perfectly how you will do everything in the future, but there are always new things, people and feelings to be discovered for which you could never have been perfectly prepared. So: go for the ‘not knowing’ and be open to everything new!
Don’t turn down too many opportunities because you wouldn’t be perfectly prepared for them. You are ready. You can take the challenge.
Life is an adventure where we are meant to learn from the things that are not perfect so that we can grow up.
It is impossible to prepare for whatever life decides to give you.
Tip 13 – Make mistakes! There are no mistakes, only feedback
Go just for the mistake! This is the most educational and healthy thing you can do for your own development. You will get nowhere without mistakes. This is one of the NLP presuppositions . Live by this principle a little more often, and your perfectionism will dissolve immediately.
In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
– Theodore Roosevelt
Here you can read more about making mistakes.
Celebrate the perfect mistake.
Tip 14 – All you have to do is show up: show yourself
You don’t have to deliver a world performance at all. You just have to show up. In fact, Rogerian therapy is based on this:
As a therapist, your most important tool is yourself. Your presence. Everything you have learned – conditioning – is secondary. Don’t judge and listen.
– Karl Rogers
80% of success showed up.
– Woody Allen
Say yes, and you’ll find out afterwards.
– Tina Fey
Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is just be there. And be seen, without guarantee of an outcome. Even if it means you are at risk for shame, failure, pain, and even heartache. It is precisely concealing our vulnerability that kills our soul, hope, potential, creativity, leadership, joy, faith and love.
Perfectionism stops us from being seen. It’s very enticing and very addictive. It holds back your gifts and your powers.
Giving up on perfectionism leads to love, joy and belonging. You will stumble, fall and be kicked around, but it is worth it!
Sink into a wonderful not-knowing.
Tip 15 – Live with self-esteem and live ‘wholehearted’: I am enough! Give yourself completely!
It’s not about whether you can do it, but whether you do it. Your actions have nothing to do with who you are. The dignity of who you are just stays that high – regardless of what you do.
‘Disappointment is when you expect something that is out of your reach’.
– Brene Brown
Brene Brown talks about wholehearted living: being involved in our lives from a place of dignity, courage, compassion and connection. Whatever I may or may not have finished on a given day, I go to bed with the feeling: I am enough.
Don’t tell your child and others that your child is perfect. Give your child self-esteem! “You are worthy of being loved and of belonging.”
I’m not perfect, I’m even vulnerable and sometimes scared, but that doesn’t change that I’m worthy of being loved, and that I’m brave and that I can belong. I am enough. Instead of “What will people think?” Whatever is done or however much left undone, I am enough.
Wholeheartedness is: don’t change who you are, but be who you are. Don’t show up halfway, just show up! Give you completely!
Tip 16 – Become a ‘true perfectionist’ … Have faith in the perfection that is already present in everything
Become a true perfectionist. A true perfectionist who sees everything as already perfect. He sees everything in a perfect light. He trusts that life unfolds perfectly. He is the healer who sees the true wholeness in everyone. He is the lover who knows that you are perfect love.
The key to perfection is imperfection.
Imperfection is the way to true perfection.
Tip 17 – See through the lies of the ego: believe that you are already perfect just the way you are!
Perfectionism is often not only in the work we want to deliver, but also in how we see ourselves. All drama begins when you believe in your own lies. The first lie you believe: that you are not good enough, not perfect. But we are made perfect.
The lie is that no one is perfect, so we seek an image of perfection that we can never become. Your beliefs are so powerful that if you believe you are not enough, you will not be good enough.
Be perfectly unfinished, at last.
Tip 18 – Don’t take what others think about yourself
Let’s say you’re friends with Picasso, and he’s taking a portrait of you. Picasso will draw you in Cubism and say, “This is my image of you.” So whatever people believe, it’s just their perspective, it has nothing to do with you (but the ego makes you believe it does …). Don’t take what others think of you into yourself.
You don’t have to be perfect. Whose past expectations are you trying to meet?
Tip 19 – The social shield / mask is perfectionism: turn off that defense and show yourself
When you put on this mask, you are a perfectionist. The paradox of this is that when you take off the mask, you will actually grow and achieve excellence … Interesting eh!
So, paradoxically, perfectionism is not striving for excellence, health and growth (by putting on a mask). Perfectionism is therefore a defensive move . It’s a shield against vulnerability . By putting up the shield, we forbid ourselves from joy. Again, don’t let perfectionism be the enemy of good.
The social shield / mask is perfectionism. You can excel without that mask!
Tip 20 – Give love to the particle of perfectionism in you: see your talent
Appreciate it, love it, and be there for that part of perfectionism. Let yourself be that perfectionist. Give it space too. There is a nice exercise for this: the visual squash.
Tip 21 – See that perfectionism is a hopeless mission … and become an imperfectionist !
Do you want to be perfect? Then you have started an impossible mission! On a material level, perfection is not possible, because perfection implies the absence of change, while there is nothing that cannot be changed.
If someone seems perfect, it is because you don’t know that person well.
– Haemin Sunim
The problem with pursuing perfection is that perfection is actually an illusion: you can go on endlessly and perfection will not be achieved. There is always something that can be ‘better’.
Let your need to be special or perfect disappear. In the ego’s perspective you may be very ordinary, but your true extraordinaryness is hidden in your normalness.
– Brene Brown
So I have a nice new goal for you: become an imperfectionist .
Tip 22 – Overcome perfectionism? Re-frame what is perfect
Have you ever heard of reframing? One of the reframing techniques is ‘meaning reframing’. With this you label something as good, bad or perfect. So just adjust your meaning of perfect! You decide for yourself what is perfect or not. If the cake you baked falls apart, it should be: it’s perfect because you label it as perfect!
The simpler, the better, because the less choice you leave a player, the more likely he will do the right thing.
Simple playing is best.
I know more than nothing about volleyball and that’s enough.
– Johan Cruijff
Simplicity is the highest goal, attainable when you have overcome all difficulties. After an enormous amount of notes and more notes have been played, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning glory of the art.
– Frédéric Chopin
Tip 23 – Do not work late to ‘finish’ your project: work will never be ‘finished’ and life is never ‘finished’
Your work will never be ‘finished’. It is therefore an illusion to think that it is good to work overtime so that you can ‘finish’ something. Read Jeff Foster’s poem below – “Be Deliciously Unsolved.”
Be wonderfully unresolved.
You will never reach a point in your life where everything is resolved. There is no ‘last scene’, just an ongoing adventure movie that you never know how it will end. Learn to love the mess of your life, its unpredictability and the fact that it is constantly changing. And you stand as unchanging silence in the middle of the storm. You are the space in which joy, pain, ecstasy, struggle, boredom, and happiness can appear and disappear like waves in the ocean. If you recognize yourself as that space, there are no problems.
– Jeff Foster, from ‘The Free Fall of Life’, free translation.
Tip 24 – Surrender and have acceptance: you don’t have to improve or check anything
What is the power of surrender? Read the following quote from Jeff Foster as he addresses a group of people:
It is so special to be able to just sit here together, while nothing needs to be improved or resolved; where we don’t need to repair ourselves or be repaired by someone else; where our burning questions do not need to be answered, where our questions are finally given the space to simply be questions; where our uncertainty does not have to be turned into certainty; where our doubts are finally allowed to just be doubts. Here, in the warm embrace of who we are, without someone in control, we don’t have to find answers, we don’t have to want to explain everything, we don’t have to want to get everything in order, we don’t have to conduct an exhaustive search and make desperate efforts to find answers …
– Jeff Foster, from ‘The Free Fall in Life’, free translation.
Would you like to read more about this special power of surrender and acceptance? That is possible here.
Embrace the suck.
These were all tips with characteristics to overcome perfectionism. Good luck dealing with perfectionism!