7 subtle signs you’re more of a perfectionist than you realize

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Today, perfection gets a lot of applause, thanks to social media and a competitive vibe.

But perfectionism also has a negative side. It can sneak into our lives, causing long-term challenges, and many people either don’t realize its impact or choose to overlook it because they see perfectionism in a positive light.

So, even though it’s pretty common, it often stays under the radar, mainly because it wears a mask of positivity. 

If you’re questioning whether you fit the bill, you’re in the right spot. Let me unveil its true face and help you understand it better with these 7 signs you’re more of a perfectionist than you realize!

1) You only see things in black and white

Perfectionists tend to view things in extremes as either perfect or a total failure. They see the world in black and white, missing the gray in between.

Yes, life has its highs and lows, but it’s the little things in between, the context, that truly make those moments great.

Going from one extreme thought to another is part of a perfectionist’s daily routine. They think, “I made cookies for everyone at work, so they must all love me,” or, “I said something wrong to him yesterday, and now he won’t go for coffee with me anymore.”

The constant “what if” questions create doubt for perfectionists even in good times, and a single piece of bad news can bring them to tears.

A person with black-and-white thinking expresses concerns like, “What if they change their mind, and we end up not getting this apartment? What if my kid isn’t accepted in school?”

The good thing is that breaking free from black-and-white thinking is achievable. Instead of engaging in arguments, appeal to logic and maintain faith. 

Remember, not everything in this world is working against you or for you. Truth is somewhere in between, and that’s the beauty of it.

2) You overthink every detail

Perfectionists analyze every detail, even daily tasks such as sending an email or completing a household chore.  

They overanalyze every word or action, and often even things that haven’t even happened yet, imagining different scenarios and leaving no detail unchecked.

I’ve been there, imagining issues when everything was actually fine. My mind tends to go on overdrive without me intending it to. 

Sometimes, when getting ready for a work presentation, I dive into every detail, forgetting to focus on the overall message.

I spend a lot of time choosing the perfect font, making sure each slide is flawless, and rehearsing my speech over and over. Still, I’m working on it because it’s time-consuming, and it kills my soul.

3) You fear failure

Perfectionists are scared of failing because they think they don’t matter anymore. If they make a mistake, they feel like it’s a personal failure, not just a tiny mistake that can happen to everyone.

This fear stops them from taking risks or trying new things. They worry that anything less than perfect reflects badly on who they are. 

If there’s a perfectionist in you, you probably think right now you’re not a great asset to your company because you forgot to send that e-mail yesterday, even if they believe you are a perfect match for them. 

You question yourself as a father, mother, spouse, or good friend, and you don’t want to fail people around you. 

Sometimes, it’s even simple daily stuff. The other day, my wife was in a rush and accidentally broke a coffee cup in the kitchen. 

She wasn’t very happy with herself. My son noticed, first saying, “Oh, oh,” and then tried to comfort her, “It’s okay, mommy. It happens. Can we fix it?”

My wife said, “No. It can’t be fixed.” Then my son suggested, “Well, we can buy a new one.” My wife smiled and said, “We sure can.”

Everything somehow gets sorted out, ok? Life has its mysterious ways, so why stress over things we can’t change? Be kind to yourself, and don’t fear failure. 

4) You have trouble sleeping

Perfectionism can also manifest in physical ways, such as difficulty sleeping. It just means you’re under stress, and your brain is working overtime. 

You probably find yourself replaying the previous day, focusing on what went wrong or gearing up for the day ahead. 

The pressure you put on yourself creates a lot of stress and anxiety, making it even harder to relax and fall asleep.

Hey, we all feel the pressure sometimes, especially before significant events like exams or interviews. It’s normal to have a bit of excitement and nervousness. 

But if constant worry is keeping you up every night, it’s time to find ways to relax. If you don’t sleep properly, you will experience more stress, which can affect your overall health. 

Try some relaxation techniques before bedtime to unwind. 

You need to take care of yourself and adopt a mindset that values progress and small steps over perfection!

5) Your self-esteem is low

Perfectionism can impact self-esteem in different ways. We often feel the pressure to excel in every aspect of life, and when we fall short, this affects our self-esteem. 

Also, societal standards contribute to our expectations, and we often impose these standards on others.

It’s great to set high goals, but we need to recognize when they’re too much. For instance, a friend of mine works long hours and loves sports. He plays football and runs marathons. He is very good at it, and also good at his job. 

But he wants to be great, and his difficulty excelling due to work commitments leaves him feeling like he’s not succeeding in any area, impacting his self-esteem. He wants to excel in everything equally.

Setting ambitious goals is crucial in life, but it’s equally important to understand our boundaries, both mentally and physically. We have to have balance in life. 

6) You obsess about previous mistakes

Growing up, my mom was a baking enthusiast and loved hosting dinner parties. I recall a time when her cake didn’t turn out as expected. Although nobody paid much attention to it, she considered it a disaster. 

After the party, instead of enjoying the compliments, she fixated on this stupid cake. She went through her recipes many times and even had my dad check the oven, convinced it was broken. She couldn’t let it go. The perfectionist in her didn’t let her. 

The thing is, that was her signature cake, the one everyone knew she made the best. The idea that she might have messed it up didn’t sit well with her. 

You see, perfectionists often get stuck on their mistakes because they rarely allow themselves to make any. They question every detail of what might happened.

7) You are a “people pleaser” who needs constant approval

And lastly, perfectionists often look for approval from others. They want everyone to think well of them and appreciate their achievements. 

If someone isn’t happy with their work, it stresses them out. 

That’s why they actually set high standards for themselves and think everyone has to see them and value them in the same way.

Years ago, the only way I could feel good about my work was when others praised me. If they didn’t say anything or their response was mild, I thought I’d done something wrong. 

This constant need for approval turned into a cycle in which I sought validation from others to feel worthy and successful. 

I also felt used many times, as I often said yes to helping others even when I was already crushed with responsibilities. 

But I realized that people don’t need to praise me all the time when my work is good. Also, they might do it in ways I didn’t notice because I was so focused on my mistakes. 

After I started to appreciate my own efforts more, I saw others do it, too.

Final thoughts

I believe that most of us have a touch of perfectionism in us. We can all be tough on ourselves, even when we’re successful and thriving. 

Having goals and striving for success is great, and it’s natural to want to showcase your achievements. However, too much of anything often isn’t that good.

Instead of nitpicking, let’s celebrate the successes because we totally deserve it! 

To my fellow perfectionists, being one is okay, but let’s not forget to cut ourselves some slack. 

We’re only human, and that’s perfectly okay. 

Adrian Volenik

Adrian has years of experience in the field of personal development and building wealth. Both physical and spiritual. He has a deep understanding of the human mind and a passion for helping people enhance their lives. Adrian loves to share practical tips and insights that can help readers achieve their personal and professional goals. He has lived in several European countries and has now settled in Portugal with his family. When he’s not writing, he enjoys going to the beach, hiking, drinking sangria, and spending time with his wife and son.

8 subtle but convincing phrases narcissists use to guilt you into staying with them

If you let go of these 8 attachments, you’ll finally move forward in life