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Home » Blog » The Perfection Paradox: Why Perfectionism Is Not Your Biggest Strength

A Picture-Perfect Life! 

There has been a distinctive enchantment with the term. Most of us gave in to the allure of creating one also, which sounds as appealing as it can get. 

Surely, there is nothing wrong with creating a life that fits into the ‘perfection’ scale. Gradually, good is not enough. Nothing is ever enough until it’s perfect. It is like an addiction. 

If you’re a perfectionist, you may assume that this tendency is a price you pay for having incredibly high expectations. Even though you may think perfection is the only acceptable outcome and that it has moral significance, this habit stops you from reaching your full potential.

It is common to view perfectionism as a positive feature that boosts one’s chances of success; nonetheless, perfectionism can lead to ideas or behaviours that are self-defeating and make it more difficult to accomplish one’s goals. Additionally, it has the tendency to develop mental health problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression. 

In this blog, we will highlight the reasons why one becomes a perfectionist, forms of perfectionism, the perfectionism-procrastination equations, toxic traits of a perfectionist and why perfectionism is not a strength in the workplace.  

What Is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is its true form, is not about becoming perfect.

Perfectionism, according to the American Psychological Association, is “the tendency to demand of others or of oneself an extremely high or even flawless level of performance, in excess of what is required by the situation.”

In other words, it’s considered a personality trait, not a mental disorder. 

Perfectionism can be either positive (“adaptive”) or harmful (“maladaptive”), according to a 2020 review in the International Journal of Medical Education. Even those who strive for perfection allow themselves to make mistakes from time to time. Others, on the other hand, are “motivated by a fear of failure,” and are more prone to anxiety, sadness, and other “negative health repercussions.”

We generally think about perfectionism in the context of actions and outcomes like being a topper, reaching weekly targets, making sure the dinner party goes off without a hitch, and so on. In other words, perfectionism looks to be about making the world a better place.

This makes sense because perfectionism’s actions are conspicuous and simple to spot: staying late at work every night, reading the report for the fifth time, putting in an extra half hour on the task, and so on.

However, just because habits are visible and easy to spot doesn’t mean they tell the whole story. Or possibly the most crucial component of the narrative. The way we think about perfectionism is heavily impacted by its appearance; nevertheless, as we all know, appearances can be deceiving.

True perfectionism is miserable, not a benign personality quirk or the fake humility of the high-achiever.

At its most basic level, being a perfectionist is having extremely high standards. Nothing you accomplish seems to be good enough because your expectations are so high. On the surface, this appears to be a good approach to push yourself to accomplish more, better, and faster things, but the truth is that motivation is fleeting.

Perfectionism is a vicious spiral. It starts with “This isn’t good enough—I’ll try again,”  and then it becomes toxic where it will weave a trap of “This isn’t good enough either—I’ll try even harder.”

Although the principle of continuously giving it your all and striving to be better is admirable, the motivation in this situation is faulty and will not yield long-term gains. It’s actually a habit, one that can be developed and reinforced via practice. It served a purpose as a habit at one point in time, even if it’s no longer useful, and as a habit, it covers behaviours as well as certain conditioned thinking.

Reasons Why One Becomes A Perfectionist

One fact about perfectionists is that they are constantly under intense pressure. It is difficult to be a perfectionist.

Fear is the motivating force behind a perfectionist. Fear of criticism, failure, or humiliation motivates people to work until their work is “perfect.” This can be influenced by family, peers, and society. Just like an overachiever is expected to continue living an overachieving lifestyle.

People with a history of great achievement may experience overwhelming pressure to maintain their level of success. Consequently, they frequently dabble in perfectionism. Children who are constantly complimented for their achievements may feel pressure to continue excelling as they grow older, which can also result in perfectionist tendencies.

Many factors can contribute to whether perfectionism develops. A few include:

  1. Frequent fear of others’ disapproval or emotions of insecurity and deficiency.
  2. Mental health conditions such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). While there is a correlation between OCD and perfectionism, not everyone with perfectionism has OCD, and not everyone with OCD is a perfectionist.
  3. Genetic Factors such as possessing a parent who displays perfectionist tendencies or expresses dissatisfaction when their children’s efforts are not successful. Some parents may encourage their children to succeed in every aspect or push them toward perfection to an abusive degree.
  4. An insecure relationship in childhood. People who had a tough bond with their parents as children may struggle to self-soothe as adults. They may have difficulty accepting a positive outcome if it is not flawless.


Most people want to succeed, yet working hard to attain your goals does not always imply perfectionism. Those who are perfectionists believe that nothing they do is worth doing unless it is flawless. Instead of taking pride in their accomplishments, they may obsess over producing flawless work or continually comparing their work to the work of others.

Even if they achieve their goals, perfectionists may still be dissatisfied. It’s possible that they think they wouldn’t have had to put in as much effort if they were actually perfect.

Some examples of perfectionism in daily life include:

  • Writing and rewriting even a small mail, until it ticks.
  • Believing that leaving one question unanswered on a test is a failure.
  • Not being satisfied when others achieve more than you 
  • Comparing own successes to those of others in a negative or unreasonable manner.
  • Rather than focusing on the process of learning, you fret about the outcome.
  • Avoiding a new task or a new hobby because you’re afraid of being exposed as sloppy.

The Paradox of Perfection: True Perfection Is Impossible

Most people who struggle with perfectionism will say that they intuitively understand that striving for perfection is both impractical and harmful and that there is no such thing as actual perfection.

The paradox underlying perfectionism can be summarised in this way:

Even though perfectionists are aware that they will never be able to achieve anything perfectly, they yet feel compelled to keep trying.

In both cases, the habit of striving for perfection was prompted by a distressing scenario and the desire to alleviate a painful emotion.

Initially, the drive to achieve greatness appears to be a harmless one. It is the perfectionist’s belief that their work is outstanding, and that they are constantly striving to achieve perfection in all areas. Then comes the dawn of the harsh reality. It is possible that our relentless quest for perfection may lead to feelings of inadequacy and the urge to cover ourselves with a mask of perfectionism. When we demand perfection from others, we can end up damaging relationships and miss out on great chances. 

This addiction can lead to additional mental health issues, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or attention deficit disorder. When we see the harm that our quest for perfection causes in our lives, the paradox becomes apparent.

Since it works on some level, the habit of striving for perfection becomes more ingrained. As a youngster who obsessively anticipates every potential possibility surrounding their abusive parent, it may actually save them from harm.

However, the practice of striving for perfection may also “function” in the sense that it brings respite from an uncomfortable emotion. The neglected middle child is able to distract themselves (temporarily) from the sadness that comes from feeling dismissed and devalued by their parents by focusing on their schoolwork and achieving good grades.

The goal of perfectionism is not to be flawless, but to have a perfect opinion about oneself.

In many individuals, the common reason that is found in having a perfect outcome is related to an emotion, a rather painful one. Anyone who develops an ingrained habit of aiming for perfection is in order to feel happy (or at least less bad).

In the past, aiming for perfection brought some emotional comfort to them, and so the brain “pushes” them toward that option in the present time whenever an unpleasant emotion surfaces.

Every time we push ourselves to the limit, we reinforce the link between negative emotions and the pursuit of perfection. As a result, the initial push becomes increasingly powerful over time. Violent cycles are created in this manner.

People who are perfectionists don’t do so because they believe they will reach perfection; rather, they do so in order to temporarily alleviate an uncomfortable emotion they are experiencing.

The desire to “be flawless” isn’t what drives perfectionism; it’s the obsession with “perfectness” itself.

Why Most Perfectionists Are Procrastinators? 

You leave your client’s meeting buzzing with ideas and excitement for what you’ll do next. You set a deadline for ideas, a strategy, and designs – everything that will help the project move forward. Everything is obvious in your mind at that time, and you can’t wait to get started.

However, as the deadline approaches, something shifts. You want it to be terrific, amazing, and immaculate. Despite the fact that your vision is clear and your ideas are sound, you continue to put off starting the process.

It’s finally the day before the deadline. You’re kicking yourself for putting things off, and your self-esteem and willingness to act are both waning. Then there’s the deadline. You’re not only haranguing yourself for perhaps squandering a huge chance, but you’re also fretting and stressing about pulling it together by the end of the day.

We’d like to introduce you to the twin pairs that have just wrecked your nerves and your work: perfectionism and procrastination.

Perfectionism is often accompanied by procrastination. Perfectionists put off tasks as long as possible because they are afraid of not being able to execute them precisely. This originates from a fear that failing to accomplish the goal will reveal something unpleasant, incorrect, or worthless about them. Furthermore, perfectionists are afraid of being judged or ridiculed if they fail, either by internal voices or external authorities and peers.

Perfectionists delay more when they are afraid of failure and humiliation.

This irrational pursuit of perfection arises from a desire to maintain a sense of self-worth based on others’ expectations. Because perfection does not exist, it is often referred to be “the greatest kind of self-abuse.” More crucially, for day-to-day working and living, perfection is rarely required.

Being a perfectionist has one of the most damaging consequences: perfectionists procrastinate.

In our forthcoming articles, we’ll discuss Perfectionism and Procrastination Loop. Keep an eye on our blog page.

8 Signs You Are A Perfectionist And It’s Not Healthy

Of fact, perfectionism is more of a spectrum than a type, and you might be on one extreme or the other.

If you’re wondering whether you’re a perfectionist, chances are you are, at least to some extent. Because of the positive implications of the word “perfect,” there’s a strong possibility you’ve invested in the persona of being a perfectionist.

As a result, these indicators are not absolute, and you must view of them in terms of stages.

Examine them to discover if you’ve encountered the great majority, and if so, to what extent.

While having high expectations can help you succeed — exceptional athletes, pioneering researchers, and brilliant leaders all do – being a perfectionist will prevent you from reaching your full potential.

Here are 8 red flags that your perfectionistic urges are causing you more damage than good:

1. Perfectionists Are Not Pleased Until Everything Is Perfect

Perfectionists not only expect spectacular accomplishments from themselves, but also from others. They don’t have much patience for people who don’t live up to their expectations. Their relationships falter as a result of their harsh criticism of those around them.

2. Perfectionists Struggle To Finish Tasks On Time 

People with a healthy motivation are more efficient at completing activities. Perfectionists, on the other hand, find it difficult to do anything. They may rewrite an email a dozen times to ensure it’s flawless, or they may never think their proposal is good enough to be pitched in the first place. They may fail to meet crucial deadlines because they do not believe their work is good enough to be called accomplished.

3. Perfectionists Are Highly Critical About Mistakes

Perfectionists do not view setbacks as teaching opportunities. Instead, they believe that every mistake they make is evidence that they are incompetent. They harshly criticise themselves, and even the smallest errors leave them feeling devastated.

4. Perfectionists Are Defensive About Their Flaws

Fear of being evaluated harshly for one’s imperfections is a common fear among perfectionists. They try to maintain an illusion of perfection in order to avoid being judged by others. When things aren’t going their way, many of them have acquired the art of convincing others that everything is “just wonderful.”

5. Perfectionists Have A Fear of Trying New Things And Fail

If you’re one such perfectionist, it’s more important to demonstrate current abilities than it is to master new ones. As a result, they choose to focus on tasks that are easier to do than those that require a significant amount of effort. For fear of failing to learn the abilities required for success, people are reluctant to try new activities.

6. Perfectionists Equate Worth with Achievements

In order to feel good about themselves, perfectionists need to accomplish something new or significant. Because they feel like they don’t measure up in life, they can go into a downward spiral after a slight setback, a minor error, or a minor rejection.

7. Perfectionists Set Unrealistic Goals and Standards 

Attempting to achieve unattainable levels of accomplishment is detrimental to the mental health of perfectionists. Researchers have found links between perfectionism and anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, and depression. Multiple studies have highlighted perfectionism as a suicide risk factor.

8. Perfectionists Are Only Focused on Results

A high achiever enjoys the pursuit of a goal as much or more than the actual accomplishment of that objective. In contrast, perfectionists see nothing but the end goal. They are so preoccupied with achieving the objective and avoiding the dreaded failure that they are unable to enjoy the process of growth and effort.

Why Perfectionism Makes You Difficult to Work With?

Being a perfectionist at work may first appear to be a good thing, as it appears to others that you are a hard-working individual who gets things done in a timely manner.

Most of the time, you’ll come across as a person who is quick, sure of herself, and able to get things done, all while maintaining the appearance of being busy and in control at work. Perfectionist tendencies in the workplace can be good or negative depending on the situation. 

Here are some reasons why being a perfectionist makes you difficult to work with.

  • You never share your thoughts or ideas. 

As a result of their fear of failure, perfectionists are terrified of any move that isn’t flawless. Even more so, the fact that others are aware of this adds an additional degree of concern. Consequently, the perfectionist will not share any ideas or concepts unless they are absolutely positive that they will succeed. As a result, perfectionists tend to come across as locked off and untruthful. When you’re a perfectionist, it’s easy to feel like an impostor.

  • Your Colleagues Do Not Feel Relaxed Around You

We think you would agree that you are never relaxed. Those who are perfectionists are also self-motivated. The more time you don’t put into achieving a goal, the worse it appears to a perfectionist. It is possible that you are a perfectionist if you find it difficult to unplug and separate yourself from job, projects, or hobbies.

  • You Are Highly Critical Of Your Fellow Colleagues

Because they hold others to the same high standard that they hold themselves to, perfectionists can be particularly critical of their coworkers and coworkers. Don’t hold grudges against the people in your life.

It’s human nature to make errors. Consequently, if something goes awry, be a little more forgiving.

Reliability is reduced when you view minor missteps in the grand scheme of things as monumental disasters. Successful professionals are those who are able to learn from their mistakes and persevere in the face of adversity.

  • You Are Workoholic And You Expect The Same From Your Team 

People who are workaholics and extreme perfectionists frequently cause people misery. They can’t shake the feeling that their work isn’t quite up to par, and they worry that they aren’t putting in enough effort to live up to their own standards. This obsession consumes them.

  •  You Agonize Over Past Failures 

Perfectionists are tormented by the ghosts of their past failures and faults. It is difficult for perfectionists to move on from previous mistakes and accept recent triumphs because of their concern with what should have been.

Those who are perfectionists tend to dwell on their previous mistakes and perceived failures, and this can lead to a constant state of anxiety and paranoia. When they make a mistake, they exaggerate it into a complete failure because they believe they will never be good enough. Getting rid of their negative self-perception is proving to be a difficult task for them.

How To Overcome Perfectionism

Being aware of the problem is a useful first step in resolving small episodes of perfectionism. Set more realistic expectations for yourself and realize that mistakes and failure are a part of the learning process.

But if it is attacking your life, a mental health practitioner can help manage perfectionism, even though it isn’t a recognised mental illness. In order to realise your full potential, you need to teach your brain to think differently. You can get in touch with a life coach or executive coach to break the patterns. Don’t hesitate to get help if your perfectionism is preventing you from living your best life.

Well, keeping it short because this is a topic to elaborate on another time. Till then enjoy this blog: Creative Expression: How To Unleash Your Creativity – xMonks

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is the tendency to demand of others or of oneself an extremely high or even flawless level of performance, in excess of what is required by the situation.

Is Perfectionism Bad?

Harmful perfectionism makes one tough to work with and mentally stressed due to constant pressure.

How to overcome perfectionism?

To overcome perfectionism set more realistic expectations for yourself and realize that mistakes and failure are a part of the learning process.

Why are perfectionists procrastinators?

Perfectionism is often accompanied by procrastination. Perfectionists put off tasks as long as possible because they are afraid of not being able to execute them precisely.

What is the perfectionism paradox?

The paradox of perfectionism is that even though perfectionists are aware that they will never be able to achieve anything perfectly, they yet feel compelled to keep trying.