How Being a Perfectionist is Affecting Your Success in Life

5 Surprising Ways How You Operate is Costing You More Than You Realize

Neel Raman
8 min readMar 7, 2023

Do you know how being a perfectionist is affecting your success? Do you think you have perfectionist tendencies?

When you want to do everything perfectly, you may slow your progress or even stop yourself from taking action, because perfectionism can prevent you from taking risks and making mistakes. You may also become paralyzed with fear of failure.

If you want to achieve great things in life, you need to stop being a perfectionist. Find out how being a perfectionist is costing you and what you can do about it.

1-Minute Summary Video

What Does It Mean to Be a Perfectionist?

Perfectionism is an obsession with making sure that everything is done right. A perfectionist is someone who believes there is nothing perfect. They constantly strive to improve things or situations.

A perfectionist is:

  • Driven to do better, to achieve more, to become better, to make themselves better.
  • Often critical of themselves and others.
  • Quick to point out flaws and mistakes.
  • More focused on the details rather than the big picture.
  • Someone who doesn’t want to settle for second best.

What are the Types of Perfectionism?

There are two kinds of perfectionists; those who are driven by external factors and those who are driven by internal ones.

There are two kinds of perfectionists; those who are driven by external factors and those who are driven by internal ones.

1. Driven By External Factors

This can include pressure from parents, teachers, bosses, friends, and society. Their personality trait often cause them to feel compelled to achieve perfection because they fear failure.

They may also suffer from low self-esteem and lack confidence. This type of perfectionist strives for perfection to avoid criticism.

2. Driven By Internal Factors

An internal perfectionist strives for perfection because they feel internally motivated. They want to do their best and believe they deserve praise.

They’re more likely to succeed in life because they don’t let external pressures dictate how they behave. They are usually hard-working and conscientious. Achieving excellence and setting lofty goals drives them, and they often place unrealistic expectations on themselves.

This type of perfectionist tends to be self-critical and judgmental and will most likely be unhappy when they cannot meet their impossible standard.

If they don’t feel they’re meeting their expectations, they will be disappointed, which can affect their mental health. For them to succeed, they must constantly strive to reach higher levels of performance.

While there’s nothing wrong with having perfectionistic traits, the problem arises when you let extreme levels of perfectionism control every aspect of your life.

One of the downsides of perfectionism is when you become obsessed with making everything perfect, you can lose sight of the bigger picture. When you lose sight of the big picture, you will struggle to achieve your goals.

That’s why it’s important to learn how to deal with perfectionism so you can have a better lifestyle.

being a perfectionist

What are the Causes of Perfectionism?

People who suffer from perfectionism often feel anxious when faced with tasks that require them to be perfect.

They may become overwhelmed by the thought of making mistakes and fail to complete assignments because they fear failure.

The causes of perfectionism include:

  • Parental pressure.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Lack of confidence.
  • Fear of failure.
  • Being afraid of not living up to expectations.
  • Having unrealistic expectations or personal standards.
  • Being overly concerned with appearance.
  • Feeling inadequate.
  • Struggling with anxiety.
  • Being afraid of making mistakes.
  • Not feeling good enough.
  • Being afraid of criticism, judgment, and rejection.

People who suffer from perfectionism put too much pressure on themselves and expect others to meet unrealistic standards. This causes them to experience anxiety, depression, and frustration.

Signs You Have Perfectionism Traits

Here are signs that suggest you might be a perfectionist. Do you have any of these?

  • Obsess over details.
  • Worry about doing something incorrectly.
  • Find fault with other people’s work.
  • Want others to meet your high standards.
  • Get upset if someone doesn’t live up to your expectations.
  • Spend hours reviewing your work before submitting it.
  • Feel a lot of guilt if you make a mistake.
  • Afraid of making mistakes. You’d rather do nothing than risk failing.
  • Believe you should never fail.
  • Feel frustrated when you don’t meet your own expectations.

If you have these signs, you have perfectionist traits. You can change how you approach things, re-evaluate your personal standards, and use healthy perfectionism to your advantage.

How Being a Perfectionist is Affecting Your Success

Here are five ways being a perfectionist is affecting your success and costing you more than you realize.

1. It’s stealing your joy

Perfectionists worry about whether they’ve done something correctly. They’ll spend hours looking for errors in their work instead of focusing on getting the job done.

This can cause mental health issues. They place additional stress on themselves and take away their enjoyment, which affects their quality of life.

2. It’s holding you back

Perfectionists are often held back by their fears of failure. They believe if they try, they won’t do everything right.

This makes them reluctant to take chances and move forward. Instead of moving ahead, they stay stuck in a rut. This means they miss out on opportunities to grow and develop new skills.

3. It’s causing you to miss out on opportunities

You may miss out on opportunities because you’re too focused on being perfect. Instead of going after what you really want, you focus on making sure you get it right.

Instead of asking for feedback, you wait until everyone else has given theirs. This means you will miss out on valuable information that could help you improve.

4. It’s preventing you from achieving goals

Perfectionists often set low goals. They think they can only succeed if they do everything perfectly.

This leads to disappointment when they fall short of their goal. They give up before they start, which means they never reach their full potential.

5. It’s costing you money

You may think spending extra time working hard and putting in more effort is a positive trait. However, you could be losing money as well.

Perfectionists waste time and energy trying to do everything perfectly. Instead of using this time to learn new skills or build relationships, they spend it fixing problems.

Other consequences of perfectionism include:

  • Feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Losing sleep.
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Being less productive at work.
  • Not feeling satisfied with your achievements.

It’s important to remember there’s no such thing as perfection. If you want to be successful and improve your future performance, you must accept you’re not perfect.

How You Can Overcome Being a Perfectionist

Here are steps you can take to stop being a perfectionist, so you can experience better life satisfaction.

1. Accept you aren’t perfect

Accepting you’re not perfect is the first step towards overcoming harmful perfectionism. When you acknowledge you’re human, you can see flaws in your beliefs and how you operate.

2. Learn to forgive yourself

Forgiving yourself for past mistakes helps you let go of old feelings of shame and regret. Once you’ve forgiven yourself, you can move on.

3. Get rid of unrealistic expectations

Set goals you really want rather than what you think you should go after. Don’t expect to be perfect at everything. Set milestones as well and celebrate each one as you complete it.

4. Let go of control

Letting go of control allows you to enjoy life without feeling anxious. You can relax and just be happy.

5. Focus on the process rather than the outcome

You can only focus on doing things right now. Don’t worry about the end result. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

6. Take care of yourself

Take breaks throughout the day to rest and recharge. Ensure you eat healthy food and exercise regularly.

7. Practice mindfulness

Using mindfulness techniques will teach you to pay attention to the present moment. It will help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions.

8. Always remember there’s no such thing as perfect

Remember, there’s no such thing as perfect. You don’t have to be perfect to be successful.

9. Ask for help

Reach out to others and ask for advice and guidance. They can provide support and encouragement.

10. Stop comparing yourself to others

Comparison is the thief of joy. Comparing yourself to other people can cause you to feel bad about who you are.

Final Thoughts

Being a perfectionist is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it makes you work harder than anyone else because you have high standards.

On the other hand, it also causes you to put too much pressure on yourself, which will lead to stress and anxiety.

To avoid becoming a perfectionist, remember you’re human. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a deadline or fail to meet a goal. Just pick yourself back up and move forward.

Action Step: Next time you obsess over something that won’t matter in the long run, pause and ask yourself what is coming up for you. Identify what’s causing you to give so much time, energy, and effort to something that may not have a significant payoff. Apply any of the steps to stop being a perfectionist.

Question: What are other ways being a perfectionist is affecting your success in life?

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Neel Raman

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