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What Is Perfectionism?

Written By Jordan Busch-Lawm

Perfectionism is a trait defined by unreasonably high self-standards and the constant pursuit of flawlessness in one’s actions.

Perfectionism can be a tricky topic to tackle since we live in a society that values and rewards hard work, something a Perfectionist is great at. Therefore, with this reassurance that one is excelling in their practices, it is easy to forget or ignore the negative aspects of Perfectionism.

It should be kept in mind that Perfectionism is created by one’s obsessive personal doubt and critical self-evaluations. Repercussions from these aspects of Perfectionism are things such as stress, anxiety, depression, etc. In fact, Perfectionism is often keeping individuals from accomplishing tasks, as opposed to aiding them in their work.

The Cost of Perfectionism

A key thing for Perfectionists to remember is that “Perfection” is impossible to attain. 

In creating this unattainable goal of Perfection, one is set up for failure. This can have obvious negative effects on one’s mental health. For instance, Perfectionism can lead to the development of “Imposter’s Syndrome.” This Phenomenon is defined by the undermining of personal accomplishments and immense self-doubt in one’s ability amongst their peers.  This develops due to the repeated internal failure to live up to one’s unrealistic expectations and is only one example of the detrimental effects Perfectionism could potentially have on an individual.

Other complications of Perfectionism include the incremental build-up of stress that occurs in this state. This excess stress can increase one’s risk for anxiety, depression, and even suicide. 

On a smaller scale, though, Perfectionism takes a toll on the day-to-day. Perhaps the inordinate effort put into work takes away from personal relationships, or one’s ability/desire to socialize. In fact, studies have shown that Perfectionism does not at all improve one’s efficiency and often pushes procrastination.

What Now?

Four steps to start the healing process.

  1. Sometimes Perfectionists are hesitant to work on the trait in therapy as the very act itself would admit an imperfection. However, admitting Perfectionism as an imperfection is an important part of the process.
  2. Once working to defeat Perfectionism, it should be reminded constantly that it is an obstacle that disallows one from being their best self, not the other way around.
  3. After this step is taken, it is suggested that someone who has been a Perfectionist look into the practice of Self-Compassion. This is because of the constant self-critique that a Perfectionist puts themselves through, often being harsh or even cruel. 
  4. Additionally, practices such as Mindfulness and Meditation can help as you regain control of your work life. 


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