How to stop being a perfectionist

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

The problem with perfectionism

Perfectionism is the intense desire to do everything perfectly. For the first instance this might seem like a good idea. After all, isn't it a good thing to perfect whatever we do?

The problem with perfectionism is that it forces people to focus on things that don't really matter and as a result they fail to do the things that matter.

A typical perfectionist usually focuses on too little details that they fail to see the big picture or complete the big thing properly.

A perfect example would be the perfectionist who tires to perfect little details of their answer sheet then end up failing the test because of not finding enough time to answer all the questions in the test. See How perfectionism holds you back

The problem of perfectionism doesn't stop here but it can extend to create some kind of an entry barrier to many activities. A perfectionist might avoid a task all together because of knowing that it will take them a very large amount of time.

In such a case the perfectionist might lag behind and fail to develop the right skills just because they never attempt to do certain things.

How to stop being a perfectionist

So how can a person stop being a perfectionist?
Here are some tips that can help:

  • 1) Know that perfectionism is dragging you down: Once you realize that perfectionism is actually preventing you from succeeding in life you will become motivated to get over it. You are a perfectionist because you don't want to make mistakes but do you realize that failing to succeed or wasting your life for nothing is the biggest mistake anyone can do?
  • 2) Understand the reasons behind your perfectionism: Perfectionism can be a direct result of lack of self confidence, feelings of inferiority or feelings of inadequacy. In all cases getting over perfectionism requires dealing with the underlying problem that caused it. see How perfectionism develops
  • 3) Learn to focus on what matters: Perfecting what you do is a good thing but this is only true when you focus on what matters. When you study for an exam your goal should be getting good grades and not perfecting the study material.Focus on the major goals and forget about the little goals that make no sense. See Why perfectionism is a weakness
  • 4) Know that it's OK to make mistakes: In the Ultimate guide to becoming confident i said that all humans make mistakes. If your goal is to never make mistakes then you are trying to achieve an impossible goal
  • 5) Don't be afraid to make mistakes: One of the reasons people become perfectionists is that they fear making mistakes. You have to understand that if you don't make mistakes you will never succeed in life. Making mistakes is one of the most effective ways that can teach you how things work. A person can never succeed in life without making some mistakes. See Overcoming the fear of making mistakes
  • 6) Do imperfect things: In order to kill the habit of perfectionism you need to train yourself to do imperfect things. Go against your emotions and try to do something without perfecting it. Don't get this wrong. I am not asking you not to do your work well but i am just asking you to forget about the details that won't really matter
  • 7) Know that perfectionism is useless: Your career isn't going to get affected if you got 95 instead of 99 in an exam. Some people have great careers and they didn't even complete their education. If you want to get results in life you need to look at the big picture and stop clinging to little details that would lead you nowhere. Would you rather be a famous millionaire who got normal grades or an ordinary person who got 100/100 in each exam?

Perfectionism leads nowhere

If you decided to live with perfectionism then you will lose so many opportunities as a result of the time you will waste perfecting things that don't really matter.

In addition to that you will miss so many opportunities as a result of wanting to avoid tasks that you can't do perfectly.

In all cases your habit of perfectionism will lead to anything but a perfect life.
Do you want to live an imperfect life just to keep your perfectionism?

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