We like to think of perfectionism as a good thing.
If you strive for excellence, you have high standards and are committed to achieving remarkable results in most areas of your life.
But have you thought about the downsides of having this personality trait?
It can lead to burnout, pressure, difficulty delegating tasks – and that’s just scratching the surface.
It might be a good idea to dial down your flawless proclivities.
If you recognize these 6 signs, you’re probably a perfectionist (and it’s holding you back).
Prepare to discover why you feel sluggish 24/7.
1) You have an all-or-nothing mentality
I haven’t deep-cleaned my apartment in a year.
Before you call me a slob, I regularly vacuum, mop, dust, scrub the toilet, the whole shebang.
Actual deep-cleaning, however? Not so much.
I made a plan in my Notion app for each section of the apartment, I added little checkmarks, I was excited to tackle such an ambitious and satisfying process.
That was months ago.
Since then, I only managed to declutter my closet, which took an entire day. I was exhausted by the end, poured myself some prosecco, and couldn’t fathom the idea of doing more.
Whenever I returned to the plan, I felt overwhelmed and exited the app, guilt chewing on my insides.
See, I suffer from all-or-nothing syndrome, and it occasionally makes me feel like I’m grappling with some sort of chronic disease.
I can’t just do one or two tasks from that list and leave the rest for the next time I have a couple of spare hours, like a sensible human being. I do them all, or I do nothing.
Plus, until I manage to check every box on the list, I feel like I live in a gross and unsanitary place, which objectively isn’t the case.
(Welcome to my brain. I don’t particularly like being here either.)
For people with an all-or-nothing mentality, there is no such thing as gray areas. Everything is black or white.
Success must be perfect or not worth pursuing at all:
- If you don’t achieve a perfect score on a test, you’re a failure, even if you pass
- If you can’t complete a task perfectly, it’s not worth starting
- If you can’t perfectly stick to a diet, there’s no point in trying to eat healthier
- If you can’t get in perfect shape, why go to the gym?
Needless to say, it is worth going to the gym, eating healthier, and even doing only two of 27 deep-cleaning tasks.
Because it’s better than doing nothing.
If you disagree, your perfectionism is holding you back.
2) If you don’t master a task in 3 minutes, you give up
Perhaps it’s impatience. Perhaps it’s perfectionism in disguise.
Some perfectionists give up an activity or task if they don’t see quick, significant progress.
For instance, if I download an app on my phone and can’t figure out how to use it in approximately 5 minutes, I uninstall it and act like I wasn’t interested in it in the first place.
I mentioned Notion. I have no idea how to use the app beyond creating to-do lists and dumping some of my writing there for posterity.
I watched a tutorial and 497 TikToks on the subject, but I still only use its basic functions. It enables you to do so much more.
Perfectionists believe that if they can’t excel at something immediately, they’re not good enough or have failed.
This fear of failure can paralyze and push you to abandon a task or goal rather than risk not meeting your high standards.
If you’re not willing to suck at something, you can’t get better at it.
Consequently, you rarely venture beyond your comfort zone.
3) You’re your own worst critic
If you have a knack for pointing out your flaws and mistakes at every turn, you’re definitely a perfectionist.
I’m convinced no one can hurt me with harsh words alone. The worst they can say about me, I’ve already thought about myself.
(Please don’t take this as a challenge. Refer to the next point on the list.)
Perfectionists have an inner voice that constantly analyzes their performance, appearance, and achievements.
They get stuck in a never-ending cycle of self-criticism, which wreaks havoc on their mental health and causes low self-esteem.
4) You loathe constructive criticism and obsess over feedback
Perfectionists are often highly sensitive to criticism, even if it’s constructive or well-intentioned.
They take it personally and see it as a reflection of their worth.
Whenever they receive feedback, they fixate on the negative bits.
Even if it’s predominantly positive, they dissect it to exhaustion.
They crave approval not only from peers and managers but also from friends and partners.
Unfortunately, not everyone will think highly of you and your work.
Feedback should be an opportunity for growth rather than a threat to your self-worth.
I’m working on this.
Maybe you can, too?
5) You procrastinate
Things I did in the last few hours instead of wrapping up this article:
- Went to the store for snacks I didn’t need
- Looked for my passport because I forgot where I put it (I am traveling nowhere in the foreseeable future)
- Read an in-depth article about the Gossip Girl pilot for some reason
- Tried on a dress I plan to wear to an upcoming wedding to see if it still fits
- Attempted to interact with a pigeon who was chilling in a tree outside my window (failed)
- Decided it was the perfect moment to accept all connection requests on LinkedIn, a website I peruse never
You would think that being a perfectionist means you are highly productive.
Paradoxically, high standards lead to procrastination.
If you’re a perfectionist, you worry that you can’t meet those standards, a fear that can stop you in your tracks.
To avoid failure, you delay starting a project indefinitely.
Or, you put off starting the task until you have enough time to complete it perfectly, which increases stress.
I wanted this article to turn out well, so I dilly-dallied to avoid facing the possibility that it may not. As a result, it took me much longer to complete it.
You know what helps? Deadlines.
If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t get anything done. I would still put off writing the final point on the list or polish this sentence until it becomes unrecognizable.
Alas, it’s fine as it is.
6) Other people’s half-baked efforts irritate you
I’m bothered when I see someone attempt something I want to achieve and do poorly at it. From my point of view, that is.
For instance, I’m learning how to roller skate. When I see other people learning to roller skate share videos of their fails online, I roll my eyes.
There they are, being brave and inspiring and encouraging.
And me? I wonder why they would want to share their shortcomings with the world instead of waiting to get better and impress everyone.
The truth is, I’m jealous. I’m too clumsy ever to master the art of roller skating, so I’ll never feel ready to share my imperfect roller skating dance moves with the world.
If you get frustrated when you see someone putting in less effort or not striving for excellence, you’re probably a perfectionist as well.
You don’t have high expectations only from yourself but from others. When you see them doing things in a less-than-perfect manner, it irks you to no end.
Besides the annoyance, having such a critical eye prevents you from delegating tasks.
You become convinced that you must do everything yourself to be content with the results.
It’s even worse if you work as part of a team and have to contribute to group projects.
If you suspect your colleagues talk about the unreasonable expectations you set behind your back, they do.
Perfectionists aim to be superhuman without possessing any superpowers to speak of.
That’s like wanting to fly to the moon without a rocket or attempting to make lasagna without any ingredients.
Given that your chances of being bitten by a radioactive spider in the near future are low, stop being so hard on yourself.
Life isn’t perfect – but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
Me, I’m still hoping for that spider. It’s the real reason I haven’t deep-cleaned yet.