Christina Janiga Psychotherapy - Blog

This blog is not a substitute for therapy, but provides evidence-based education for the purposes of self-help and information

Perfectionism, what’s wrong with being perfect anyway?

The problem is, nobody is perfect, and trying to be perfect is a recipe for frustration, anxiety, and disappointment.


"perfectionism is not about healthy striving. It is a coping mechanism driven by fear in order to avoid blame, shame and judgment." - Brene Brown  

What exactly is perfectionism?

Sometimes setting the bar high can help motivate you to get things done and achieve success, but other times it may actually stand in the way of you achieving your goals. Perfectionism, or the need to be or appear “perfect”, is viewed as a positive trait by some. Perfectionism is when you set the bar so high that you struggle to complete tasks, use your time wisely or you simply avoid tasks altogether.

It can lead to anxiety, depression, excessive self-criticism, feelings of inadequacy and a paralyzing fear of failure. 

Perfectionists are far more likely to have a hard time admitting they are struggling and are more resistant to seeking out mental health support for fear that someone might find out. Hopefully this article may help to encourage you to reach out if you are having a hard time, but are unsure about therapy. The right counsellor really can provide support to help you overcome perfectionism, fear of failure, and shame. 

Signs that you struggle with perfectionism

Perfectionism can rear its head in many different ways, at different times, in different areas of our lives, but most perfectionists struggle with:

  1. Chronic procrastination and difficulty starting tasks.
  2. Giving up on or struggling to complete tasks if we are not meeting our standards.
  3. Self-criticism and excessively high standards.
  4. Time management troubles – spending 3 hours on a task that typically takes others 20 minutes.
  5. The constant need to improve things by reviewing/redoing them multiple times.
  6. Agonizing over every small detail.
  7. Making elaborate to-do lists and schedules that are overwhelming and difficult to complete.
  8. Avoidance of taking risks and trying new things out of a fear of making mistakes,
  9. Feeling anxious, depressed, frustrated, or angry while trying to complete tasks.
  10. Inability to let go of control or to trust others to help or complete tasks.

How to work on your perfectionistic tendencies?

The good news is that with the right support, awareness and dedication, perfectionists can overcome their underlying anxiety and fear of failure.

Helpful things to work on right now if you struggle with perfectionism:

  1. Look at the big picture: focus on maximizing the overall impact of your work instead of perfecting every little detail. 
  2. Track your time: set a realistic time limit on the task and when the time is up move on. Also limit the amount of times you can review/edit something.
  3. Set SMART goals: break things down into smaller, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely goals. 
  4. Adjust your standards: Recognize that just getting it done is a perfectly acceptable goal. 
  5. Develop self-compassion: learn to recognize your self-critical thoughts about completing a task and try editing your internal dialogue to sound more like a best friend would.
  6. Develop a positive mantra: when you catch yourself being overly self-critical try saying something like “everyone makes mistakes”, “making a mistake does not equal failure”, or “it’s ok to have a bad day”.
  7. Reset: sometimes distracting yourself with another small but meaningful task, doing a 5 minute meditation or stepping outside for a quick walk can help us shift gears and get focused.
  8. Get perspective: talk to someone you trust about your perfectionistic tendencies. Sometimes a different perspective on a task can help remove the pressure.
  9. Expose yourself: try letting yourself make mistakes and see what happens. Chances are you will be ok. 
  10. Track progress and reward yourself: make a realistic check-list and every time you check something off reward yourself with taking a break or doing something you enjoy for a few minutes.
  11. Consider telling your trusted friends: Yes, it might be hard to admit that you’ve been having a hard time with perfectionism, but sharing this with those you trust can help to ease your emotional load and encourage you to seek outside help if needed.
  12. Reach out to a therapist: Talking to someone who has a totally impartial perspective on your life can be really helpful when it comes to finding support in overcoming perfectionism.

How therapy can support you in letting go of your perfectionism

If you or someone you know struggles with perfectionism that is impacting quality of life and causing regular distress, seeing a counselor can provide support. Therapy helps you to explore why and when you started to lean on perfectionism in your life in the first place.

 The great thing about seeing a therapist is that they can help you make small steps, and be with you through both success and setbacks on your journey to having more self compassion and care towards yourself. Also, therapists are the least judgmental people out there, seriously, you can tell them you eat dog treats on the regular and they aren’t going to act weird about it or tell anyone! 

Once you understand why it started, you can learn to find better tools and coping strategies to move forward in your life, on your own terms. Our therapist Chloe Hull specializes in helping people struggling with perfectionism, please reach out here if you’d like to connect with her.

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Christina Janiga and associated employees of Christina Janiga Psychotherapy offer virtual psychotherapy and couselling sessions through secure, Canada-based software called OnCall Health and JaneVideo. OnCall Health and JaneVideo are secure and encrypted online video platforms that meet all of Canada’s privacy requirements and laws.

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