Breaking free from perfectionism trap: Strategies for overcoming unhealthy perfectionism

In modern society, perfectionism is frequently viewed as a desirable characteristic. (Donald Tong/ Pexels)
In modern society, perfectionism is frequently viewed as a desirable characteristic. (Donald Tong/Pexels)

Perfectionism is often seen as a desirable trait in today's society. Many people associate it with success, diligence and high standards.

However, it can have negative consequences, including anxiety, burnout and decreased productivity. In this article, we explore the different aspects of perfectionism and its effects on mental health.


Perfectionism and anxiety

It can be defined as the pursuit of excellence with an unrelenting focus on high standards. Perfectionists often hold themselves to unrealistic expectations and struggle to accept anything less than perfection. As a result, they're prone to feelings of anxiety, self-doubt and fear of failure.

Perfectionists tend to engage in excessive planning, preparation and checking, which can lead to a constant state of worry and stress. They often feel a sense of urgency and pressure to perform at the highest level, even if it means sacrificing their well-being and mental health.

Perfectionism can also affect mental health in different ways. It can lead to a fear of judgment and criticism. Perfectionists are often their harshest critics. and may avoid sharing their work or ideas for fear of being judged or criticized. This fear can lead to a lack of creativity, procrastination and missed opportunities.


Maladaptive perfectionism

Individuals who are perfectionists tend to engage in excessive planning, preparation and checking. (icon0.com/Pexels)
Individuals who are perfectionists tend to engage in excessive planning, preparation and checking. (icon0.com/Pexels)

While it can be a positive trait, it can also become maladaptive, leading to negative consequences.

Maladaptive perfectionism is characterized by a rigid adherence to high standards, even when they're unrealistic or unattainable. It's associated with a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Maladaptive perfectionists tend to be critical of themselves and others, which can strain relationships and lead to social isolation. They may also struggle with decision-making, as they're constantly evaluating and second-guessing their choices. That can lead to a lack of confidence and indecisiveness.


Overcoming perfectionism

Overcoming it can be a challenging process, but it's possible. Listed below are some strategies that can be useful:

Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness, understanding and acceptance.

Instead of criticizing yourself for mistakes or shortcomings, try to be gentle and supportive. Always keep in mind that nobody is perfect, and it's perfectly acceptable to make mistakes.

Set realistic standards

Instead of striving for perfection, try to set realistic and attainable goals. Break tasks down into smaller steps, and focus on progress rather than perfection.

Challenge negative thoughts

Perfectionists often have negative and unrealistic thoughts about themselves and their abilities.

These thoughts can fuel feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. Try to challenge these thoughts by looking for evidence that contradicts them. For example, if you think you're not good enough, look for examples of times when you have succeeded or received positive feedback.

Embrace imperfection

Perfectionists often view mistakes and failures as unacceptable, but they're a natural part of the learning process. Embracing imperfection can help reduce anxiety and increase resilience. Try to see mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning.

Seek support

Perfectionism can be a lonely and isolating experience. Seeking support from friends, family or a mental health professional can help provide perspective, guidance and validation.

Talking about your experiences and feelings can also help reduce feelings of shame and self-doubt.


Excessive perfectionism can lead to anxiety. (Khwanchai Phanthong/ Pexels)
Excessive perfectionism can lead to anxiety. (Khwanchai Phanthong/ Pexels)

It's a complex and multi-faceted trait that can have both positive and negative consequences. While striving for excellence can lead to success and achievement, excessive perfectionism can lead to anxiety, burnout and decreased productivity.

Edited by Bhargav