When someone is asked during a job interview what their biggest weakness is…what’s the #1 answer interviewees give?
…”Well, I’m actually a perfectionist”.
Now, we all know that the intention of that statement isn’t actually intended to uncover a weakness.
The intention is to make the employer think that they have no weaknesses at all.
That if they’re a perfectionist, they must be hard-working, secure individuals that produce more into the world than the average human being.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
As a recovering perfectionist, I completely understand how it can be seen as a positive.
Which is why I’m here to shed some light as to how perfectionism is destructive towards our goals.
First, I’ll answer some common questions about perfectionism and how it’s setting us up for failure.
Then, I’ll dive into 15 ways on how to stop being a perfectionist FOR GOOD!
So, let’s get into it!
It’s been heavily debated as to where exactly perfectionism comes from.
Some believe it’s based on our childhood and how often we were criticized or held to high standards.
Others believe it’s genetically passed down and that we gain the trait from our parents.
I would guess it’s a combination of both.
While the origin is somewhat unclear, we do know what triggers a perfectionist way of thinking.
In terms of our mindset the difference between having it, or not having it, comes down to two types of thinking:
A Fixed Mindset vs. A Growth Mindset.
In a fixed mindset, we believe that people are either intelligent or they’re not.
We also believe failure is a weakness and should never be acceptable.
With this mindset, we avoid failure to further gain validation that we’re worthy.
Contrast this to a growth mindset.
In a growth mindset, we believe that failures are a means of growth and learning.
We believe that intelligence is measured through effort and that there is enough success + happiness in the world for everyone.
With this mindset, we value feedback as a positive and use it to better ourselves and our skill sets.
See the difference?
There are many sources that claim that forms of perfectionism are healthy.
Not too long ago, I had this same outlook on the subject.
I now wholeheartedly disagree.
As perfectionists, we think that setting high demands for ourselves always results in growth and success.
It turns out, by setting such strict, high standards we are ultimately self-sabotaging our efforts.
Setting unrealistic expectations is also severely unhealthy.
In short, being a perfectionist has become synonymous with being driven, and working hard to achieve one’s goals.
The two are different concepts entirely.
There are a vast number of ways as to why perfectionism is debilitating for our mindset.
These are the most common drawbacks:
Now that we’ve covered why we want to stop our perfectionism tendencies, I’m going to give you the best tips to help you start!
I’m confident that doing even just a few of these will significantly help you reach whatever goal you set for yourself.
It’s important you become aware of your perfectionist tendencies.
This requires ongoing observation of yourself and your daily habits.
Leaving your brain unattended, is like having an unsupervised toddler in the house.
Messy and unpredictable.
Learn to take note of the expectations you set for yourself and how strictly you critique your actions.
This will be necessary for you to incorporate more healthy thoughts into your mindset.
Learn how to set goals that are attainable.
Avoid the practice of overshooting your expectations for yourself.
Allow yourself the opportunity to grow and learn.
This doesn’t mean that you have to set yourself to low standards.
But learn how to work backward from your goals, and how to properly plan for your successes.
If you are clear with your plans and intentions to complete a specific goal then you’re setting yourself up for success!
This isn’t even to say that you have to shout out a positive affirmation every 2-seconds proclaiming the love you have for yourself.
It just means having a clear picture of what you have to offer the world.
I can tell you right now, it’s way more than you think!
Write these things down.
Be able to recite them at a moments notice.
No matter how much you’ve claimed to be a perfectionist in the past, we’ve all made PLENTY of mistakes.
Which is likely, if you’re a perfectionist, why you’re constantly caught in a downward spiral of unhealthy thinking.
But these mistakes and imperfections are what makes you unique.
They make you, you.
Imagine how boring the world would be if every human being operated according to a manual?
Anything great or extraordinary in this world is a direct result of someone not being “perfect” or meeting up to societies unrealistic expectations.
Wonderful things happen by stumbling off the path a little.
This is where the magic happens.
So embrace your imperfections.
Leverage them to do something different that no one else is capable of cause they aren’t you.
Stop waiting for something to be perfect in order to start.
Don’t wait for yourself to be 10-pounds skinnier to start working out.
Don’t wait to be funnier to start making friends.
Don’t wait till you become an expert on a topic to start talking about it.
If you are a true perfectionist, you are not (nearly) as productive as you could be.
In order to see results in your life, you need to produce more into the world.
Which means you can’t expect everything you put out there to be 100% flawless perfection.
You get the quickest results in life from producing B- work.
I first learned this from Brooke Castillo at The Life Coach School and its GOLD.
To create something of value, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
And by not obsessing over perfection…you can produce MORE VALUE.
This applies to anything in life.
Sometimes perfectionists struggle to loosen up and surrender to the moment they’re in.
So schedule activities every week that require you to let go of your perfectionist tendencies!
Any form of physical activity is amazing for this.
Running, yoga, rock climbing — you name it — they all require you to start as a beginner.
Which allows you to be humbled, and to embrace the imperfections so you can grow.
Plus, there’s no better way to loosen up than to have a laugh at yourself when you try something new!
Perfectionists have a tendency to be overly critical of those around them.
This normally stems from a perfectionist being overly critical of themselves.
Which then tends to rub off when they interact with others.
By being critical of those around you it breeds comparison, negativity, and will also make you a burden to other people.
Basically, you’ll be the ultimate buzzkill.
So shed the negativity!
Start appreciating how other people have skills that you don’t necessarily have — and could learn from.
When your inner critic tries to pester you with negativity I want you to be able to address her by name.
If you assign your inner critic a name (preferably one you don’t like) then it makes the idea of your perfectionist alter-ego tangible.
By giving it an identity it allows you to separate the old you from the new you you’re trying to create.
It gives you control over it!
And note that whenever this alter ego challenges your new way of thinking, present her with the current facts.
That what you put out into this world IS enough, and that she no longer serves you anymore.
In order to stop being a perfectionist, you need to learn to say no to things that do not serve you.
Say no to that extra assignment, social engagement, or meaningless filler activity that adds no real value to your life.
Don’t add on tasks to prove yourself worthy to yourself, or anyone else.
This causes you to go into overwhelm and disappointment when you take too much on.
Perfectionists have a tendency to fill their schedule with work 24-7 and tend to not prioritize breaks.
What many don’t know is that breaks are necessary to maximize efficiency during work time.
So schedule your break time and what you’ll do during it.
This may seem like too much of a constraint…but think of it this way.
The more you plan for your downtime, the more time you’ll have to enjoy it when the time comes.
You’ll feel at peace knowing your breaks are scheduled, so you have to take them no matter what!
When you’re in a perfectionist mindset, you have the mentality that no one can accomplish a task as good as you.
This causes you to take on a HUGE amount that, much of the time, no longer becomes feasible.
Which causes your results to suffer.
So select which tasks you could reasonably outsource, and seek someone out to do those things for you.
As secure as some perfectionists seem on the outside, it often stems from a lack of self-esteem and trust in their own abilities.
When you have trust in yourself, you have confidence that you’ll accomplish your goals.
Which sets you free from anxiety, self-doubt, and overwhelm.
In turn, making you more productive than ever.
Develop trust with yourself over time by following through with the tasks you set with yourself.
You are worth sticking to your plans.
…no matter how small.
Many perfectionists desire instant gratification and often have trouble waiting for real results.
Understand that when you celebrate every small accomplishment, those results have compounding effects over time.
Months later, you’ll have results you never thought were possible!
Mistakes are our most valuable teacher.
When you fear failure your slapping away opportunities to become better.
So embrace critique from those more experience, learn to laugh at your mistakes, and fail fast in life.
The more you fail, the more opportunity you have for GROWTH.
It’s a scary thing to let go of perfectionism tendencies.
By doing this, you’re relinquishing control that you felt you had before.
But I promise you, if you actually take the steps to become less of a perfectionist, you’ll produce way more in life than you were previously.
And the results will be so beyond worth it!
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified life and health coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.