Updated: Jul 24
Striving to be perfect is an endless game and the truth is nobody is perfect. So why do we expect ourselves to be?
We’ve been conditioned to believe that being perfect will make us happy, successful, and loved but this isn’t true!
As a health coach, I know that perfectionism can be one of the causes of chronic stress and depression —and I see it all the time in my clients.
My advice? Choose progress over perfection.
Keep reading to find out.
Table of Contents
What is Perfectionism?
Perfectionism is a double-edged sword of wanting to be the best. It's a personality trait about pursuing flawlessness and setting sky-high standards.
If you are a perfectionist, you know it's not all sunshine and rainbows.
It can be both beneficial and detrimental to your success. It may help you achieve more, but it also brings a lot of stress, anxiety, and potentially depression.
You can be your worst enemy, obsessing over every detail, leading to procrastination and indecisiveness.
While striving for excellence is admirable, perfectionism can negatively affect your mental health.
The Cost of Perfectionism
Stress and Burnout
It may surprise you as perfectionism could be the cause of your burnout.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, perfectionism is strongly linked to a range of "detrimental" outcomes in your work and personal life .
These outcomes include heightened stress levels, workaholism, anxiety, and depression.
Feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem
Constantly striving for perfection can also take a toll on your mental health. It's easy to feel like your accomplishments are insufficient when you constantly think you can do better or more.
This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, negatively impacting your confidence and overall well-being.
Perfectionism can also cause you to self-sabotage. If a task isn't done perfectly, you may feel it's not worth doing.
This is especially true if you're very hard on yourself when things don't go as planned.
According to Psychology Today, perfectionism can lead to various self-sabotaging behaviors, which include:
Negative self-talk: When you're a perfectionist, you're often your harshest critic.
Procrastination: Because you're so afraid of making mistakes, you might avoid tasks altogether or put them off until the last minute.
Getting worked up about little things: You might get bogged down in tiny details rather than focusing on the big picture.
“All or nothing” thinking: You may think in black-and-white terms, which can be limiting. You might see things as perfect or a failure, with no middle ground.
Avoiding new experiences: Because you're so afraid of failure, you might avoid trying new things or taking risks.
Afraid to lose control: You often feel you need to control everything.
No time to relax: You often find it difficult to relax and quiet your mind. You may always feel the need to be doing something productive or perfecting your skills.
Perfectionism is expensive
Apart from the psychological effects, perfectionism can also have financial implications. As a perfectionist, you tend to be highly meticulous in your work, which can result in time-consuming and costly revisions.
You may also miss opportunities because you are too afraid to take risks or make mistakes.
Why Choose Progress Over Perfection?
When it comes to achieving success, many of us have a tendency to get caught up in the pursuit of perfection.
However, choosing progress over perfection can have many benefits for your mental health, personal growth, and overall well-being.
Here's why choosing progress over perfection may support your health:
Focus on What Matters Most
Striving for progress allows you to prioritize the most important tasks and make steady progress toward your goals.
Instead of getting bogged down in minor details, you can focus on what matters most and achieve your goals more efficiently.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Letting go of the need to be perfect can help reduce stress and anxiety.
When you're not constantly striving for perfection, you may feel more relaxed and confident in your abilities, which can improve your mental health and overall well-being.
Be More Flexible and Adaptable
Choosing progress over perfection allows you to be more open to new experiences and opportunities, which can lead to personal and professional growth.
When you're not focused on achieving perfection, you're more flexible and adaptable, allowing you to embrace change and new challenges.
Enjoy the Journey Towards Your Goals
Choosing progress over perfection allows you to enjoy the journey towards your goals, rather than just the end result.
When you're not so focused on the destination, you can appreciate the small wins and celebrate your progress along the way, which can boost your motivation and overall happiness.
You Get to Know the Real You
When you're not so focused on achieving perfection, you have more time and energy to focus on yourself. You can then explore your interests, passions, and strengths without all the pressure of having to be perfect.
This can help you discover new things about yourself that can lead to personal growth and career opportunities.
5 Habits to Help You Practice Progress Over Perfection
Practicing progress over perfection is all about changing your mindset and habits.
Here are 5 habits to help you make progress towards your goals:
1) Set Realistic Goals
Instead of setting sky-high standards for yourself, set realistic goals that you can achieve over time.
Break them down into smaller, achievable steps to help you make progress and stay motivated.
2) Focus on the Big Picture
Don't get bogged down in minor details that don't matter in the long run. Keep your eye on the big picture and prioritize the most important tasks that will help you achieve your goals.
3) Embrace Mistakes and Failures
Instead of fearing mistakes and failures, embrace them as learning opportunities. Use them to learn and grow, and make adjustments to your approach as needed.
4) Celebrate Progress
Take time to acknowledge and celebrate the progress you make along the way. Recognize your small wins and appreciate the effort you put in to achieve them. Celebrating progress is a great way to stay motivated.
5) Practice Self-Compassion
Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Don't beat yourself up over mistakes or setbacks, but instead, treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would show to your best friend.
This will help you maintain a positive attitude and outlook on your progress.
Remember, life is a journey, not a destination. Keep working towards your goals one step at a time, and don't forget to celebrate your progress along the way.
What to do next?
If you’re looking for an easy way to stay motivated and inspired, find a community that aligns with your goals and join them.
And if your perfectionism is causing you stress, we have a Facebook community called Be the CEO of Your Stress. Our goal is to help you take control of your life and manage stress more effectively.
So if you'd like to join us, head over to Facebook and join our community! We’d love for you to be part of it.
About the Author
Alexa Hanshaw is a health and stress management coach who helps women be the CEO of their stress. She empowers her clients to push past the confusion of the health and wellness industry to create lifestyle habits that bring them energy and work with their bodies instead of against it.
Join her free Facebook group, Be the CEO of Your Stress, and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube for quick, easy & healthy tips on stress, health, fitness, nutrition, sleep, and how to stay mindful!