How to manage your perfectionism

Updated: Apr 26



Perfectionism - that 'safe' answer you're advised to give when asked, "What is your weakness?" during interviews.

Turns out, Perfectionism is neither a safe answer nor a desirable tendency to have.

Why? You ask.

You'll be surprised by how the American Psychological Association defines Perfectionism:

What I found interesting when I first read it, is that the downsides of perfectionism are included in the definition.

I've had acute perfectionistic tendencies. While I've come a long way from where I was even 2 years ago, I am still a work in progress.

When I started reading up about Perfectionism, Brene Brown's work was a revelation to me, although I must confess - I was taken aback by it initially.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection Brene writes, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not self-improvement or striving for excellence. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”

She adds, “Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval. Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, they adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect. Prove. Healthy striving is self-focused - How can I improve? Perfectionism - is other focused - What will they think?”

3 things stood out for me. That:

  1. while we think perfectionism protects us, it actually stops us from even starting. I can recall many projects that I didn't even get started with because I wanted them to be perfect in every way.

  2. perfectionism is not about improving oneself.

  3. at the center of perfectionism is not how can I get better but what will others think.

With these insights in hand, I started looking for ways to get rid of my perfectionistic tendencies.

I found a simple, practical, and sustainable way in one of my all-time favorite books, Effortless by Greg McKeown.

Greg says - 'Define what done looks like'. This has helped me progress on many projects that I would have procrastinated otherwise.

Let me give you an example - when I was reading up to create my website, the amount of tips, advice, and recommended features that I came across was overwhelming. So, I asked myself - What do I want people visiting my website to get to know, what should it help them do, and what's the look and feel I want the website to have? Once these were clear to me, I had the answer to 'What does done look like?' Equipped with that clarity, I went about developing my website by myself!

If you are someone with perfectionistic tendencies, choose PROGRESS over perfection and remember that DONE is better than perfect.

Here are 3 Tiny Habits Recipes that you can use:

When I feel overwhelmed because of my perfectionism and am hesitant to start, I will ask myself, 'What does done look like?'

After I realize that my perfectionism is taking over, I will remind myself 'What done looks like'.

After I become aware of my perfectionism getting the better of me, I will say to myself, 'Done is better than perfect'.

Even if you're not a perfectionist, what insight did you get from this blog? Do comment below and let me know.