Overcoming the Struggle of Perfectionism

We live in a world that encourages Perfectionism. Even though we live in an imperfect world there are many who are obsessed with trying to make their lives absolutely perfect. Some people even wear their Perfectionism like a badge of honour!

Perfectionism often leads to physical and emotional stress – both personally and organisationally.

Perfectionism creates unnecessary struggle. The struggle comes from the double-edged sword that is Perfectionism – a strong desire to do well, combined with a fear of failing and the consequences of not doing well.

There is a big difference between Striving for Excellence and Perfection.

The clip above (from a recent Great Managers MasterClass) provides strategies to move out of the Struggle of Perfectionism and into a style which is more about Striving for Excellence.

[Don’t like videos? Video Transcription Below!]



Perfectionistic Vs Achievement Styles

Leadership Development takes place when you disrupt Thinking, Behaviour and Language patterns that aren’t working for by replacing them with effective patterns.

And while Self-Awareness is the key to change, it is not enough on its own. Change requires skilful action too.

So, let’s look specifically at the core patterns associated with Perfectionistic Vs Achievement styles and how you can move from Struggling to Striving.

confidence,self awareness,strengths,build trustPerfectionism Thinking Patterns – “I’m not good enough!”

The core Perfectionistic Thinking Pattern is about believing that you are less than perfect and that less than perfect results means, “I’m not good enough.”

Develop some thought-stopping techniques first so when you mentally scold yourself for not being good enough, pull the handbrake. Replace that thinking with the Achievement style, which sounds more like “I’m going to do my very best, and I’m accepting of myself and others.”

You understand and acknowledge that we all have strengths and weaknesses.

Pulling up critical self-talk and critical thinking, and replacing it with thinking that supports you rather than sabotages you is a perfect example of Emotional Intelligence in Action.

Perfectionism Language Patterns – “What if I fail?”fail,hide,perfectionism

Let’s have a look at the core language patterns and how you can move from struggling to striving language.

The core language of a Perfectionist revolves around mistakes and anxiety around mistakes.

Language like, “Oh, what if I make a mistake?” Or, “What if I fail?” Or, “I’ll be devastated if I fail!”
There’s a lot of “black and white” and catastrophizing language in this Perfectionistic style. It is all about devastation and disaster.

Too many “shoulds” and “musts”. “I should have done this. I must do that.”

Try replacing it with something like; “Well, mistakes will occur from time to time, and it’s important to learn from them. It’s not the end of the world…”

The achieving style uses language around what worked, what didn’t, and what’s next.

It is a forward-movement approach in the achieving style, where the Perfectionistic style gets stuck in a vortex of problems and just goes round and round as their anxiety increases.

Perfectionism Behaviour Patterns – “Ever-seeking, never-finding.”

Those displaying Perfectionistic behaviour will attack other peoples’ ideas, and they will also tend to highlight, and focus on flaws.

People with the achieving style do not judge others. They don’t criticise them either. They provide honest feedback skillfully and sensitively, and they encourage others through a coaching approach.

Conversely, perfectionistic people tends to have repetitive, rigid and even ritualistic behaviour, which we will see showing up when they double and triple-check work.

Perfectionism - The uphill BattlePerfectionistic styles sets goals, as we have said before, that are often difficult to achieve. The achievement style will plan out the realistic actions required for each milestone and re-assess when necessary. Unpredictable things will always occur, so you will have to reassess your goals and your work plan.


Unfortunately, perfectionistic people rarely take pleasure in success.   I call this the “ever-seeking, never-finding” aspect of Perfectionism. As a result, they will achieve something and then get straight on to the next thing, without actually enjoying the win or even accepting acknowledgement from others.

If you adjust even small aspects of your patterning, you will get a dramatically different result. The first thing you will notice is the energy drain caused by perfectionism will stop and you will feel far more energetic!

Sandra Wood – Managing Director, Great Managers

great managers masterclass

Next Steps

If you would like to learn practical steps to overcome your perfectionism, you can view the full-length lesson in our Great Managers MasterClass. For a limited time, you can subscribe to our MasterClass for free. Click here for more info.

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