How to Stop Being a Perfectionist in 6 Simple Steps

Learn how to stop being a perfectionist.

Image: Novy Studios

There’s an epidemic affecting businesses the world over. Unfortunately, many people don’t even know it exists. We’re talking about perfectionism.

This blog post will teach you how to stop being a perfectionist. First we’ll dive into what perfectionism really is and its causes. Then we’ll outline a seven step approach you can take to break your perfectionist tendencies. Ready?

Understanding Your Perfectionist Tendencies

The official Wikipedia definition of perfectionism is:

“Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.”

Many people, especially in the business world, view perfectionism in a positive light. They see it as simply striving to become one’s best and working hard to produce at a high level. But this way of thinking doesn’t accurately describe the condition.

While there’s nothing wrong with seeking improvement, perfectionists tend to take this desire to extremes, often associating their own self-worth with the quality of their work. This is both dangerous and unhealthy.

Studies show that perfectionism can lead to decreased levels of productivity and creativity. In extreme cases, perfectionism can result in depression, burnout, and even suicide. It’s a serious condition with serious potential consequences.

No matter what level of perfectionism you have, the rest of this blog post will help you approach your work in a more productive and healthy way.

What Causes Perfectionism?

We’ve just established that perfectionism is unhealthy. But where does it come from? Why do some people struggle with perfectionist habits? There are many reasons, but we’ll explore three of the most common now:

Low Self-Esteem

When someone has low self-esteem, they may be drawn to perfectionism as a way to “measure up”. Unfortunately, this often leads to perfectionists putting all of their self worth in their accomplishments, which only further pushes them to strive for perfection. It’s a vicious cycle.

A Fear of Failure

Another common cause of perfectionism is a fear of failure. If you’re constantly afraid that your efforts won’t be successful, perfectionist tendencies may begin to surface. You also may struggle with procrastination. After all, why start a task if it won’t ever be good enough?

Ultra-Competitive Environments

While competition has many benefits, often pushing people to do amazing things, it can also have a negative impact. Environments that are ultra competitive, may produce perfectionist tendencies. For example, a child who was always competing with his siblings for his parents attention and praise may become a perfectionist in order to prove himself worthy.


Each of these causes of perfectionism can be remedied with the following six steps. But it should be noted that extreme cases of perfectionism, the kind resulting in serious conditions such as suicidal tendencies, need to be dealt with by a trained doctor.

6 Steps to Stop Being a Perfectionist

Ready to nip your perfectionist tendencies in the bud? This six step system will help you eliminate perfectionism and become much more productive.

1. Understand Yourself

The first step when attempting to stop being a perfectionist is to realize that you have these tendencies. You have to be able to admit to yourself that you struggle, at least a little, with perfectionism.

When you’ve accepted that you’re a perfectionist, you then need to understand the root cause. Do you have low self-esteem? Are you afraid of failure? Is your mindset simply a byproduct of your current environment?

Lastly, be honest with yourself and decide whether you’re willing to work on your perfectionism or not. It will take effort and sacrifice. If you aren’t ready to to do what’s necessary, you won’t see success in this endeavor.

2. Set Realistic Goals

If you’ve decided that, yes, you are willing to confront your perfectionism in order to become more productive and live a healthier lifestyle, congratulations! That’s a big first step. Now you need to work on setting realistic, attainable goals.

This doesn’t mean you can’t still be ambitious and strive to create great work. But there needs to be a limit. Remember the old saying, “done is better than perfect.” Make a goal to get projects done well, not done perfectly.

One of the best ways to stick to your new realistic objectives, without going above and beyond them, is to set time parameters on all your projects. Give yourself X hours to complete a task. When the time is up, move on to something else. This will ensure you don’t waste time on minor details.

3. View Failure Properly

A proper view of failure often separates successful people from the rest of the world. It can also help you stop being a perfectionist. One of the reasons many people strive for perfection is because they’re afraid of falling short. But what if you looked at failure as a positive thing? With the right mindset, it can be.

When failure is viewed as a learning experience, it transitions from something to be avoided at all costs, to something to be embraced. No, you don’t need to seek out defeat. But when it happens, and it will happen sooner or later for us all, learn from it and improve.

Failure isn’t the end, it’s an opportunity to grow.

4. Get Started

Perfectionism leads to procrastination. If the project can’t be completed perfectly, why do it at all? But this mentality will get you nowhere and years down the road, you’ll look back and wonder why you wasted your potential.

It’s much better to just start. Remember, failure is an opportunity to grow. If your project doesn’t turn out perfectly, learn from the experience and produce better work next time.

5. Learn to Delegate

Perfectionists often have an “if you want it done right, do it yourself” mentality. Unfortunately, this mindset can often lead to disaster. Instead, you need to learn to trust your team and delegate work. Delegation has multiple benefits:

  • First, you’ll have less tasks to complete yourself, freeing you up to work on the most important assignments; the ones that really matter. More than that, your work will be of greater quality because you aren’t mired in the day to day minutia of your job.
  • Second, delegating will improve your team members skill sets and boost company morale. When employees are asked to do new things, they’ll grow. As they develop new skills and take on more responsibility, they’ll become more invested and engaged in their work.

So stop being a perfectionist and learn to delegate.

6. Continually Seek Improvement

Finally, continually analyze yourself and look for ways to minimize perfectionist behavior. How can you get improve your self esteem, learn to view failure as a learning experience, etc.? If you’ve slipped up recently, don’t get down on yourself. Just restart.

Overcoming perfectionism isn’t a one time event, but if you’re self-aware, you’ll be able to stop being a perfectionist much quicker.

Overcoming Perfectionism

Perfectionism is unproductive and unhealthy. While you should always strive to do your best work, you also need to accept that perfection isn’t attainable. Your efforts will be flawed, that doesn’t make them unworthy.

Remember, to stop being a perfectionist, simply use our six steps:

  • Understand why you are a perfectionist.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Adopt a proper view of failure.
  • Start a project, even if the circumstances aren’t ideal.
  • Learn to delegate tasks.
  • And continually work to overcome your perfectionist tendencies.

Perfectionism doesn’t need to hold you back any longer. Use the tips in this guide to stop being a perfectionist today. Your productivity, creativity and quality of life will all improve.

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