What is Perfectionism, and how to manage it?

Darryl Bachmeier
Aug 15, 2019

Perfectionism is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it inspires you to work at a high level and deliver high-quality work. On the other hand, it can cause you unnecessary anxiety and slow you down. How can you use the positives of your perfection while mitigating the negatives? What actions or practices can you use to keep your perfection in check? Do you need to list the help of others?

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is sometimes about being or wanting to appear complete or believing, that perfection can be achieved. This is generally observed as a positive trait rather than a defect. People can use the term “healthy perfectionism” to describe or justify perfect behavior.

Signs You Might Be a Perfectionist

Most people engage in perfection from time to time or in certain areas of life. Almost full-time perfectionists may continuously feel the need to achieve perfection. They may also be:

  • They can’t do a thing if they don’t know they can do it perfectly.
  • See the final product as the most important part of any Endeavour.
  • Don’t look to complete a task.
  • People with perfectionism do not want to start a task until they know it can be done correctly.
  • Taking more than an average time to complete a task.

Types of perfectionism

Personal Standards Perfectionism

One who adheres to this type of perfectionism may adhere to a set of standards that inspire them. Others may still consider these standards high, but they encourage the person who sets them. This type of perfectionism is considered healthy because it does not lead to excessive stress or burning.

Self-critical perfectionism

This type of perfectionist is more likely to be intimidated by the goals they set for themselves than to be motivated. They may often feel hopeless, or their dreams will never come true.

This type of perfectionism, outlined in a 2014 York University study, describes the demand for specialization that is often placed on those with jobs that require extreme precision, such as lawyers, medical professionals, and architects. Individuals in these professions experienced higher pessimistic thoughts, depression and a higher risk of self-harm and suicide.

So, before you get excited about having a “cure”, know that this is something you need to continue to work on consciously and consistently. But you certainly-


When you agree, think about which situations express your perfect behavior most strongly. For me, I have to hand it over to someone else or share it publicly like going back to school. That is why it takes me weeks and even months to publish my first blog posts.

What does it feed?

It will also be helpful to understand why you are challenging yourself with the highest quality. Like other habits, perfectionism should serve some of you, even if it does not serve your higher self. Simply identifying the fundamental beliefs that make up your perfect habit is a good step to change them. You can choose the beliefs you want to have and the beliefs you want to feed.

Face the worst situation

Perfectionism is often a way of making sure you do not fail. However, a restrained mindset is one of the best for creativity and innovative thinking. It’s even better to talk to someone you trust (preferably not a fellow perfectionist). Expelling those dark thoughts into the fresh air, robs them of their energy.

Identify the required standards

It helps to ask what is the standard for the work at hand. Do they need “quick and dirty”, client readiness, or something in between? It’s like arranging transportation. Sometimes nothing, less than a lemon to stretch, other times the bicycle will suffice. Make sure you ask first, so you know what to offer.

Adjust your quality

Even when others have lower standards, those who are in perfect mode will find it challenging to give up our own high standards. We think we have to go beyond what we expected to overcome.

Look at your self-talk

As you step back, one of the most powerful obstacles in your path is your self-talk. When the voice in your head says things like, “If it’s worth doing it, it’s worth doing it right” or “Don’t be lazy” or “Everything is riding in it”, it’s hard to stop yourself from completing.

Give a reason why you are making progress

This is the best thing you can do but within a limited time. That way, you can’t work again until something is “perfect”. Sometimes you have to set a limit to how much work you can do on something. If you have a tendency to complete a task, decide that you will spend only 30 minutes (or any time limit) on it.

Do the experiments

This is to test what works for you and practice it without fail. Since each situation is different, it is useful to try different techniques and see what happens. Start with low-risk situations (so, regular board update instead of board briefing) and learn as you go.


The paradox of perfectionism is that none of us accepts this as a way of hurting our careers. Still, if we do not control it, it will eventually happen.

So, start identifying it in your own behavior and experiment to find the best ways for you to use it only in situations where it is needed. That way, you can make a move towards the right job for you, not against you.

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