6 Signs Perfectionism Is Holding You Back — And How To Get Out Of Your Own Way

High standards are great ... but that's not what this is.

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If perfectionism is subtly getting in the way of success, it's time to learn how to stop aiming to be perfect.

We often think that wanting to do our best and ensuring that we always have our best foot forward are good things, right?

But when does that turn into a negative quality that prevents you from achieving your goals and holds you back, both personally and professionally?

When you're unable to accept less than perfect from yourself and you're setting unrealistic professional and personal goals, the line has been crossed. You're moving into perfectionism territory.


Perfectionism can rob you of your happiness and ability to enjoy success. The good news is that you can be a high achiever without the demands of perfectionism.

RELATED: 3 Good Reasons Why You Need To Stop Trying To Be Perfect (And Focus On Something More Attainable)


First, you must learn these six signs of perfectionism.

1. Procrastination.

You're always putting things off for fear that you won’t get it right or there isn’t enough time to do your best.

2. You make constant revisions.

Always feeling that you can do better and when you review your work, only seeing flaws.

3. You feel like you're not good enough.

Even your best could have been better.

You struggle with seeing anything you produce as good enough and you hold yourself to unrealistic standards.

4. You experience constant anxiety and stress at work and at home.

You're afraid your boss will not think your presentation was up to par, your house is not nice enough to have guests over, or that you're not an accomplished enough cook.


The list goes on and you can’t enjoy your success, due to the constant internal dialogue telling you that you could have done better.

Ruminations have made a home in your head.

5. You have a negative self-appraisal.

You find it hard to accept compliments or don’t believe others when they compliment you. You doubt their sincerity and tell yourself, you could have done better.

Your self-esteem suffers as a result of your unrealistic standards.

6. You're critical of yourself and others.

Your high standards lead you to be disappointed in yourself and others. You tend to focus on flaws and what is not working rather than seeing what went right in a project.


People may be worried about disappointing you and feel that they never get it right with you.

So, now that you know your perfectionism is a problem and getting in the way of your happiness and success, how do you change the behavior and modify your perfectionist traits?

You need to find more balance so you can better work towards being a high achiever, not a perfectionist.

RELATED: 4 Risks Of Perfectionism That May Be New To You ─ And You Can Transcend

To learn how to stop aiming to be perfect, here are 5 things to try.

1. Be aware of your inner critic and negative thoughts.

There's a tape playing in your head that's telling you that your work is not good enough, it's not up to par, and you should do better.


Be aware of that voice, recognize that they are just thoughts, and remind yourself that you have the choice of what you want to believe.

Just be aware of the thoughts, notice them, and choose not to act on them or buy into them.

2. Replace negative sabotaging thoughts with healthier, rational thoughts.

Create a list of supportive, nurturing thoughts, such as, "I'm working hard and doing the best can. My best is good enough, people appreciate my hard work and it pays off, it’s better to complete this task than to continue to worry about it."

Repeating more supportive thoughts rather than negative thoughts helps to rewire the brain and break the habit of perfectionism.


3. Focus on how you want to feel.

Remind yourself: do you want to feel anxious and stressed with perfectionist ideas? Or do you want to have balance in your life and be able to relax more?

Taking a more moderate approach to your goals, rather than a black and white extreme approach, leads to a growth mindset.

A growth mindset can encourage you to embrace that you're constantly improving and growing.

Things don’t have to be perfect to be and you can still enjoy yourself knowing that you're learning along the way.

4. Start seeing what's going right and focus on positive aspects.

Instead of looking at your work with a critical eye and seeing flaws, challenge yourself to pause and look for what you're proud of and what you accomplished.


Appreciate what you did well and is positive about your work.

Shifting your focus from a critical appraisal to a softer, more gentle appraisal can make a difference in how you feel about yourself and your work.

5. Remember that criticism doesn’t work.

Your brain perceives criticism as a threat to your survival. Therefore, it's ineffective as a learning tool. You become guarded and are less likely to change your behavior.


There's an erroneous idea that perfectionism is the gold standard that helps you be the best you can be.

In reality, it actually prevents you from achieving your goals and having a growth mindset, which allows for opportunities and improvements.

Modifying your perfectionist traits can have a positive impact on our psyche and emotional well-being.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be very effective in helping you look at irrational thoughts and changing them to healthier, more supportive thoughts.

RELATED: The Dark Side Of Perfectionism (And How To Stop Being A Perfectionist)

Monica Ramunda, MA, LPC, LCMHC, RPT-S is a therapist who uses CBT and works with clients struggling with perfectionism. She is the owner of Rocky Mountain Counseling Services and Lighthouse Counseling Services.