Do You Need to Quit Being a Perfectionist?

By Heather Sinclair

June 30, 2015   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man


Perfection is impressive, but if it’s taking over your life it’s gone too far. If you think you might be getting overwhelmed by your perfectionist ambitions, ask yourself these questions.

Then decide if you should become a recovering perfectionist.

Why Do You Aim for Perfection?

There are as many reasons to aim for perfection as there are people, more than one reason could be driving you to be the best.

Figure out whether your reasons align with the kind of person you want to be. You could be trying hard for the sake of others, or you could be supporting values you believe in.

Reasons to strive for perfection

• Impress your boss, friends, or family
• Impress yourself by surpassing your own expectations
• Self-satisfaction for doing the best you can
• Make yourself look better in front of colleagues
• Attract praise for your efforts
• Make someone proud of your achievement

Perfection might be helping you grow as a person or it might just be…selfish.

Be honest with yourself about your motivation for perfection.

What is the Cost of Perfection?

Being perfect may not be worth the price. You’re paying with your time, your effort, your mood, and your relationships.

What perfection costs you:

• Stress that affects your mood and leads to burnout
• Turning people away with your demands for perfectionist
• Disappointment when you fall short
• Your life is disappearing in the name of perfection

It could be costing you more than you thought, chasing perfection. It doesn’t just affect you: people around you are paying too. The stress you put yourself under and the disappointment you feel if you don’t achieve perfection affects others too.

Why is “Good” Not Good Enough?

There’s a difference between “good” and “perfect” but it can be difficult to find.

For example, your readers might not notice an error in your 2,000-page manuscript, even if you do. That doesn’t mean it’s a complete disaster.

There is a point where working harder on something won’t make a big difference. When you’ve completed a task to “good”, the last bit (that takes you to “perfect”) will take almost as much effort as it took to get to “good”.

There’s always going to be something extra that you can do, some more time you can spend, some more polishing. But is it worth it if what you’ve already got is good?

Good gets the job done without draining your effort.

Good is good enough.

Is Perfection Preventing You From Finishing?

Trying to do everything perfectly could mean you aren’t finishing very much.

Constantly changing, tweaking, and thinking up improvements could trap you in a never-ending cycle of “almost done”. This could apply to anything from home renovations to making tomato basil soup for supper.

Wait too long to get something perfect, and “almost” could turn into “never”. Now you’ve wasted time and effort, and you’re probably dealing with disappointment.

Perfection may not be worth the wait, if the wait never ends.

What are the Consequences of Imperfection

Think about what would happen if you weren’t perfect, if every detail wasn’t included, if every doubt wasn’t addressed. Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen.

• Disappointing yourself with less than your best effort
• Disappointing people who expected more of you
• Your efforts affect someone else and their goal
• Criticism for not having everything perfect

Can you live with the outcome of imperfection? Who is will it affect most? In what way?

Be realistic, and don’t get carried away with thoughts of unlikely or obscure outcomes. Then decide whether you’re going to accept the risks of imperfection, or accept the effort it takes to attain perfection.


Perfection can feel good. Doing something didn’t think you could do is a great feeling, and it’s even better when you’re recognized for your efforts.
But perfection could be damaging your health, your relationships, and needlessly eating up your time and effort.

Answer the questions above, and reconsider your devotion to being perfect.

Heather Sinclair

Heather's passion for travel compelled her to change careers, and start writing to encourage anyone who feels stuck in their life to find their fulfillment with travel.

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