• Little Symphony

Mental Health Monday: Overcome Perfectionism

The pursuit of perfection can inhibit us from taking action. Here's how to overcome perfectionism and get stuff done.

What is Perfectionism?

Most of us want to do our best at a task. However, some of us hold the belief that anything short of perfection will lead to catastrophe.

Perfectionism is the tendency to set standards that are so high they are either unattainable or can only be met with great difficultly. Perfectionists often feel like mistakes equate to failure.

Who Experiences Perfectionism?

Perfectionism can strike at any age and life stage but adults often experience these feelings. Adults specialize: we do things we are good at, we try new things less, and we fail less. External pressures can also be greater, with higher stakes dependent on our successes and failures.

When we forget how to fail, we fear the consequences of doing so, particularly when we feel we have a lot to lose. This type of thinking makes it scary to make mistakes.

Perfectionism is a double-edged sword.

Perfectionism can both motivate you to excel but can also cause unnecessary anxiety and hinder your efforts.

How can you harness the positives of perfectionism while minimizing the negatives?


  • Learn to recognize the point of diminishing returns. Sometimes just getting the task done is a worthy enough goal.

  • Reflect on your progress to see how far you've come and how close to the end you are.

  • Calibrate your standards to match the task at hand.


  • Ruminate. Ruminating is not problem-solving. When your mind is twisting and turning, seek out distractions to break the cycle.

  • Tirelessly pursue the unclear goal of perfection. Use a strategy, such as SMART goals, to ensure you follow a process with measurable targets.

  • Go at it alone. Recruit the perspective and support of others to provide a second opinion.

Need a visual reminder? Here's a handy download to keep you on track when perfectionism sets in.

MHM_ Perfectionism
Download PDF • 1.57MB

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