4 Ways To Stop Letting Your Perfectionism Control Your Life — For Good

Sometimes being perfect isn't always so perfect.

overwhelmed woman Blue Titan / Shutterstock

Depending on who you ask, people may consider perfectionism to be a strength or a weakness.

Throughout my time as an excellence-seeking perfectionist (meaning I have a high level of standards for myself and the people in my life), I have found that being perfect isn't a strength, it's a weakness.

It's important to have a reality check with yourself and learn how to stop being a perfectionist — it's not good for your mental health!


Is perfectionism a mental disorder?

While perfectionism itself isn't recognized as a mental disorder, people who struggle with perfectionism oftentimes experience comorbid mental health issues. If you're struggling with anxiety, depression, or eating disorders, perfectionist thoughts could make those illnesses worsen.

The other kind of perfectionists (failure-avoiding) are concerned with their own desire to succeed for fear of not being good enough in the eyes of others.

Perfectionist tendencies can cause you to not be able to achieve your goals, practice negative self-talk, and have too high standards.


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What is the root cause of perfectionism?

According to certified life coach and mental health advocate Mitzi Bockmann, "Perfectionism is about the need for control. We often can’t control our emotional health or our environment or the people around us, but we can try to control how we do something."

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself if your expectations are realistic. If not, figure out how you can change them to be something that is not so impossible.


Despite taking a lot of work and thought control, there is a light at the end of perfectionism. Although it may take some time, you will one day be free from its control over you.

If you’re like me, I’m sure you give 100% to the tasks you complete. And you probably have many aspirations that keep you on your toes. On the contrary, you might find yourself struggling with disappointment and high levels of anxiety.

Since nothing can truly be perfect — the never-ending cycle, diminishing returns, and assumed failure can all bring negative emotions for perfectionists. It’s clear that the bad will always outweigh the good when talking about the pros (if any) and the cons of perfectionism.

What are the downsides of being a perfectionist?

1. You fill your mind with negative self-talk.

Have you ever heard the expression, “I am my own worst critic”? Well, nothing could be more true for someone who’s a perfectionist.


Every little mistake will warrant some self-hatred that can’t be unheard. Sometimes without even noticing, I’m being mean to myself. Instead of building myself up after a failure, I tear myself down because there shouldn’t have been any failure in the first place.

2. You have high levels of stress, burnout, and anxiety.

Since perfectionists are heavily concerned with getting everything perfect the first time around, they are constantly overworking themselves. As a result, they are stressed, experience burnout, and have high levels of anxiety.

It takes a toll adhering to the desires of perfectionism. Studies also show that perfectionism is related to detrimental work and non-work outcomes, such as workaholism.

3. You're prone to relationship problems.

Perfectionism doesn’t just affect you personally. As a matter of fact, it can have negative consequences on the relationships you hold. With such high standards for those around you, it can feel like you are never going to be satisfied.


I have personally seen this in my almost two-year relationship with my boyfriend. More than once I have made him feel like he isn’t good enough, even without trying. My perfectionist antics get in the way of the love and support I’d like to be giving.

4. You might suffer from specific physical ailments.

Although this might not affect everyone, a Swedish study discovered that 70% of patients with insomnia had higher scores than normal on perfectionism.

There have also been links to perfectionists accounting for many of the people with heart disease, persistent headaches, and irritable bowel syndrome. The high levels of stress and lack of self-respect may begin to take a toll on physical health for those who struggle with perfectionism.

5. It's hard for you to feel happy and fulfilled.

Perfectionists are very focused on the unattainable. While they may seem like realistic goals, the truth is, the search for perfection never ends.


You may not ever get what you truly want because it probably doesn’t exist. That said, finding happiness is not an easy feat. Due to the inability to let go of what you can’t control, you might also feel a gray cloud over your head at all times.

6. You experience imposter syndrome.

Distorted comparisons to people who are not on the same level cause another facet of disappointment for perfectionists.

The International Journal of Behavioral Science found that 70% of people fear they will be exposed as a fraud despite the evidence that they have essential competencies. This is particularly common among perfectionists who feel that they continually fall short and suffer from immense self-doubt.

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How to Stop Being a Perfectionist

1. Acknowledge that you wrestle with perfectionism.

The first step to solving any problem is recognizing that it exists. By doing this, you can understand that perhaps your way of thinking isn’t correct.

It will be easier to work on the steps to follow if you have an understanding of what’s going on. A clear state of mind will allow you to make the changes necessary.

In addition, the power of perfectionism will be less strong as you identify how and when it presents itself within your life.

2. Challenge your negative thoughts.

The best thing to do when negative emotions and self-talk surface is to challenge them. Turn your way of thinking around and speak to yourself with a kinder approach.


If you go off your diet and say to yourself, “I’m so fat,” shut the negativity down as fast as it appears. Instead say, “This is part of the journey and tomorrow’s a new day.” When we become better at not letting the negativity stick, we’ll be more likely to begin with positive thoughts and affirmations.

3. Seek help if necessary.

It’s not always easy to make change without help, so there’s no shame in finding someone who can take a little weight off your shoulders. Ultimately, this person will force you to see things you might have been avoiding and alter your perspective on things.

4. Work on changing your expectations.

At the root of perfectionism is the belief that what you’re looking for from yourself and others is absolute. However, this is not always the case.


Don’t be afraid to ask yourself if your expectations are realistic. If not, figure out how you can change them to be something that is not so impossible.

Can perfectionism be cured?

According to Bockmann, perfectionism cannot be cured. However, it can be managed.

"Awareness is the key," she explains. "If we are aware that we are striving for perfection in a way that isn’t healthy, or maybe even reasonable, we can work to manage our perfectionism so that it doesn’t control us."

Relational wellness coach Rachel Henderson warns, "If you consider yourself a perfectionist, the last thing you want to do is strive for a 'cure.' That’s just another way of striving for perfection."


Henderson explains that you shouldn't seek to eradicate your perfection, but instead just start small.

"Gradually, you can redefine your standards for yourself. You can decide what 'good enough' looks like and feels like to you,” she says. “If you can start opening up to the idea that you’re worthy and valuable simply because you exist, you can start shifting your standards for yourself to something more sustainable.”

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Isabella Pacinelli is a former contributor to YourTango, features editor for Ashland University's The Collegian, and freelance writer for Medina Weekly News. Follow her on Facebook for more.