Finding Balance: 3 Steps to Overcoming Perfectionism

Overcoming perfectionism requires balance.

Striving for excellence, seeking to improve—your skill at public speaking, your stamina in sports competition, your knowledge of a foreign language—is healthy when you are happy with yourself and want to be even better.

Perfectionism, however, comes from feeling that you’re never good enough.

A perfectionist’s striving is unrealistic. It’s an attempt to avoid all failure and to control all outcomes. It’s rooted in the fear that unless we are perfect, we won’t be loved or accepted.

Finding the point of balance between challenging yourself to do better in a healthy way and pushing yourself to be perfect means accepting that you are a work in progress.

Following are three vital steps to overcoming perfectionism.

Step 1. Change Your Perfectionistic Thinking

Overcoming perfectionism begins by shifting negative thought patterns into more realistic and positive ones.

Embrace a Mindset Reset

Perfectionists are often hypercritical of themselves.

Overcoming perfectionism involves practicing more helpful self-talk to replace critical self-talk.

Even if you don’t believe them at first, realistically positive statements like, “Nobody’s perfect,” or “I did my best,” or “I’m not a failure for making a mistake” will help you change your perspective.

Lower Your Standards

All or nothing thinking is another habit of perfectionists.

The 80/20 rule says that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

If you redefine your idea of success from “I must give 100% of my effort and be 100% right 100% of the time” to something closer to the 80/20 rule, you’ll grow more comfortable with getting most things right most of the time.

Set Realistic Goals

When you set goals that are too far out of reach, you end up frustrated when you can’t reach them.

A realistic goal will stretch you but allow you to achieve it. Keep your goals achievable, and you’ll see you’re making progress.

Gain Perspective

Perfectionists can find it hard to see things as others see them.

Perhaps you feel like a failure because you can’t exercise two hours a day when your neighbor feels proud of exercising two hours a week.

Overcoming perfectionism means looking at the big picture. How important is the issue, project, or task? Not everything in life is crucial.

Step 2. Change Your Perfectionistic Behavior

To change a behavior, it’s motivational to understand how it’s harming you in the first place.


Instead of obsessing about all the details, needing everything to be perfect, decide how much time and effort each part of the project is worth.

Take the long view, asking if spending extra time on this detail make a difference in the end? Consider the best way to use your resources of time and energy.

Don’t Be Devastated by Criticism

Evaluate the source. Why is this person being critical?

Identify anything helpful and discard the rest. Don’t take criticism as a personal attack on your self-worth. Don’t replay it in your head.

It’s been famously said that you can’t please all the people all the time.

Don’t Judge Too Soon

When you assess what you’re doing, don’t look for how you’re falling short.

Instead of despairing that you haven’t reached your goal, tell yourself you’re not there yet.

Don’t abandon a project before you have all the facts.

Step 3. Overcome Your Fear of Mistakes

Overcoming perfectionism involves removing the microscope from areas of imperfection.

Learn from Mistakes

Instead of being ashamed, learn. What you did wrong today can help you do it right tomorrow.

When you’re tempted to home in on what didn’t work, consider that perhaps it hasn’t worked yet, or that some of it worked and some of it didn’t. Then go on to the next step.

Make Connections, Not Comparisons

Instead of idealizing your hero or demonizing your nemesis, see them as people. They’re not perfect. Neither are you.

Don’t begrudge others’ successes or put yourself down for not having them. See other people and yourself as you really are.

Shift Your Focus

Think about what you enjoy about your project, job, or goal.

Shifting your frame of reference from negative to positive will decrease stress and anxiety.

Overcoming perfectionism involves enjoying the journey, not just the destination. So shift your focus from what you fear to what you enjoy.


A step-by-step approach to overcoming perfectionism breaks down into three parts. First, work on changing your perfectionistic thinking. Then address changing your perfectionistic behavior. Finally, face your fear of making mistakes, learn from them, and begin to enjoy your journey.

If you’d like more information on overcoming perfectionism, see HERE.