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Warning Signs of Perfectionism (and How to Fix Them)

warning signs of perfectionismPerfectionists believe that there is no such thing as “good enough.” There is either “fail” or “don’t fail.” The concept of success is irrelevant because “success” is based on others’ validation and is something to be chased but never realized.

Perfectionists never feel successful because there is always more to be done, more to be improved, more to “fix.” Because of this, they are often paralyzed by inaction or too much action.

Here are some signs you’re living with a perfectionist mindset:

  • You hold onto heavy things because you don’t know how to let them go.

    Perfectionists can carry around with them epic levels of resentment and disappointment. Much of their days are spent trying to make sense of things, defending themselves to an imaginary judge and jury, and constantly feeling attacked. They are not okay with themselves.

    Inside, they feel inadequate and unworthy, and perceive that others also feel this way about them. When someone does criticize, judge, or ignore them, it is impossible to let go of it because they do not have a firm grasp of their own sense of self. Conversely, they also judge others harshly because it feels reassuring not to feel like the most flawed person in the room.

    What to do instead:

    Communicate, if only to yourself in your journal at first. Hurt feelings often are caused by assumptions and miscommunications. Start taking steps to question your perception of the situation. Are you sure the other person really intended to hurt you? Could there be more to the story? It is worthwhile to discern whether all this judgment can start to be replaced with compassion and grace.

  • You stay silent, even when your brain is working in overdrive.

    Perfectionists often describe feeling both stuck and crazed at the same time. They feel compelled to put on a mask and hide their true feelings from the world because vulnerability is too risky. They say everything is great when it isn’t because they have squashed their true feelings for so long, they have become disconnected from them. They struggle to find the right words to express how they feel and how they really feel often eludes them.
    They know things are off, they just don’t know where or how to start changing them.

    What to do instead:
    Begin each day with a personal check-in. Sit down without distractions and ask yourself:

    How is my body feeling today? Are there any areas that are tired, stressed, or need attention?

    How is my mind feeling today? Am I feeling centered and clear on what I want the day to bring or is my mind going in a million different directions before I even get out of bed?

    How is my soul feeling today? Am I feeling connected to my intuition or am I feeling cut off, stuck, tapped out?

    The simple act of making it a habit to connect with yourself in the morning and as needed throughout the day will begin you on the path to knowing and understanding who you really are.

  • You don’t know how to live in life’s gray areas.

    Perfectionists have an all-or-nothing mentality. Things should be done to the highest standards or they shouldn’t be done at all. Projects and goals are divided into two categories: “succeed” and “fail.” And perfectionists are terrified of failing because their entire sense of self hinges on how they are viewed and judged by other people and by external validation. Perfectionists tend to commit to things too much or not at all because doing things without the reassurance that everything will pan out exactly as desired is too frightening a prospect.

    What to do instead:

    Your fear of failure disconnects you from your authentic self. Your intuition is the voice of your authentic self and it tells you when to let go of something and when to push forward regardless of others’ judgment. When you value what society, culture, or even your family and friends think over what you know in your heart is best for you, you rob yourself of choice and freedom that come from living from your own values.

When you drop the perfectionist mindset, you become able to live from a place of your own instinctual, intrinsic knowing: your intuition. Things around you change and you adapt with them, but you never change the essence of who you are. You are whole.


Warning Signs of Perfectionism (and How to Fix Them)

Amy Beth Acker

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APA Reference
Acker, A. (2018). Warning Signs of Perfectionism (and How to Fix Them). Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 4 Sep 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.