How to Overcome Perfectionism

Becky Mollenkamp
14 min readApr 17

Learn what perfectionism is, signs you may be a perfectionist, its root causes, and (most importantly) 10 ways to overcome it.

By Becky Mollenkamp, PCC

You want to know how to overcome perfectionism, likely because you are one of the millions of people who struggle with a perfectionist mindset.

Perfectionism is on the rise globally, studies have found, and that’s not a good thing.

Perfect isn’t possible (certainly not 100% of the time), so setting unattainable goals sets you up for frequent disappointment. The dangers of perfectionism are many, including such negative health outcomes as anxiety, sleep disturbances, depression, and even suicide.

Why do you hold yourself to unrealistic, and impossible, expectations? Why do you set yourself up to fail?

Read on to find out the signs of perfectionism (they aren’t always what you think), perfectionism vs. healthy striving, root causes of perfectionism, and 10 ways to overcome it.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Signs of perfectionism

Not every perfectionist self-identifies as such. That’s because it doesn’t always manifest as the stereotypical Type-A overachiever. In fact, many of the signs of perfectionism can look quite different.

1. Not starting: For perfectionists, there are only 2 outcomes — success or failure (and success looks like first place, the best, perfection). When this is the case, you may avoid starting any new task. That may mean never trying new things like hobbies or projects at work, or it may mean procrastinating on things you must do until the last possible moment. If you don’t try, you can’t fail.

[Helpful article: How to Stop Black-and-White Thinking]

2. Quitting: Likewise, perfectionists hate failure so much that they will give up on any new thing they attempt if they can’t master it almost immediately. As soon as something feels difficult, they’ll quit, which feels like a more empowered choice to them than trying to get better and failing.

3. Craving approval from others: For most perfectionists, it’s not about deeming themselves as having done something perfectly, it’s about having someone else tell them they did it perfectly. So, they crave…

Becky Mollenkamp

Accountability coach for feminist founders.