Perfectionism Isn't Always About Being Perfect

December 12, 2018 Heidi Green, Psy.D.

Perfectionism isn't always about being perfect; it can keep us from trying new things, too. Learn how perfectionism can derail your bliss at HealthyPlace.

Perfectionism and being perfect often hold you back from living in bliss. You've heard the phrase "nobody's perfect," and you've probably said it yourself many times. It's a term people use without much thought. I've been thinking about perfectionism a lot recently, both because I've had substantial growth in this area, but also because I have more work to do. Perfectionism, trying to be perfect, can be a real happiness killer if it goes unchecked.

For many years, I didn't think I struggled with perfectionism. I'm not overly concerned with image-management. I go out of the house with no make-up and in sweatpants all the time. I'm not afraid to admit when I've made a mistake. I tend to have a "good enough" attitude. How could I be a perfectionist?

Perfectionism Isn't Always About Being Perfect

When I got honest with myself, I realized I'm not as easy-going as I'd like to believe. I had a good enough attitude because I only engaged in activities and projects where I naturally excelled. I didn't stress out about book reports and term papers because reading and writing were enjoyable to me. My natural talent in the arts kept me from fretting over my final result. However, I was limiting myself by avoiding anything in which I wasn't confident I could succeed.

Through this self-discovery process, I determined my perfectionism was rooted in a fear of failure. I wasn't afraid to be imperfect if I knew I was doing well. If I suspected I would not be a natural at something, I told myself I wasn't interested in it. However, there were plenty of things I was interested in that I wasn't doing because I feared I would struggle and fail. 

Perfectionism Keeps Us from Trying New Things

Yoga is a perfect example. I tried it, and like most beginner yogis, I was terrible at it. Yoga is a practice that requires dedication and repetition to master. I told myself it was boring and I quit just as soon as I had begun. The truth was, I didn't find yoga boring. I found it difficult. This distinction changed everything.

I kept thinking about yoga. I admired people who were doing it. I was envious of those who were proficient. I realized the only thing holding me back was my fear of being clumsy, awkward and not good enough. I decided to face my fear and try again.

Shift Your Thinking to Fight Perfectionism

Now I ward off perfectionism with a valuable shift in thinking. Instead of focusing on how imperfect my performance is, I focus on how good my body feels after a yoga class. When I see others who are highly skilled, I congratulate the person in my mind, recognizing they have put in significant work to get where they are.

The other change I've made is letting go of the outcome. I no longer see the goal of yoga as having a perfectly aligned pose. I practice yoga to de-stress and take care of my body. I accept I may never be a yoga master, but that isn't the point. My objective isn't to be great at yoga, but rather to enjoy the benefits without focusing on perfection.

I am now translating this new perspective to other areas of my life. When I want to try something I think will be difficult, I ask myself what my motivation is and what reward I can reap even if I never become an expert. This change in thinking allows me to try new things, have more fun, worry less, and appreciate others instead of envying them. If you struggle with perfectionism, try taking this approach and see what happens.

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APA Reference
Green, H. (2018, December 12). Perfectionism Isn't Always About Being Perfect, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Heidi Green, Psy.D.

Heidi Green is a clinical psychologist and self-love aficionado. She lives her blissful life in Arizona where she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and snuggling her rescue pups. Find Heidi on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and her blog.

Please note: Dr. Green shares her personal opinions and experiences and nothing written by her should be considered professional or personal services or advice.

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