Doug and Lynn Nodland

Doug and Lynn Nodland

Are you a perfectionist? We all can be at times. Like the name implies, the perfectionist wants everything to be just so. Therefore, being a perfectionist may have both some positives and some pitfalls.

On the positive side, perfectionists may be greatly valued in the workplace. They set incredible goals. When a project needs to be exactly done, you can always count on a perfectionist to get the details right. Also, they often will continue with projects long after everyone else has given up.

On the other hand, as Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Perfectionists may want to keep going over a project “just one more time” because, to them, it is never right. Then a project that would meet expectations of others by being “good enough” may not meet deadlines and ends up being late.

The problem is that perfectionists also experience more stress and worry than others because nothing they do will ever seem to measure up to their own high standards. Michael Law views perfectionism this way, “At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about the deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” Let’s look further at perfectionism.

How does perfectionism hold us back?

With the kind of high goals perfectionists set, it’s no wonder they may find it quite difficult to achieve what they set out to do. Unfortunately, in the eyes of perfectionists, they can feel like a "failure" when this happens.

When you're a perfectionist, it's tough to get things done. There’s so much pressure to get things right, that perfectionists can start to get bogged down and feel overwhelmed. They can get caught up in details that might not matter. They also tend to second-guess themselves a lot. As a result of not trusting themselves, they often want others to say they agree and support their decisions. When they don’t get the result or the support they desire, their self-esteem suffers.

It's not uncommon for perfectionists to get angry at themselves. Being a perfectionist is not a comfortable position, so let’s look at how to identify when we’re being perfectionists and how to deal with perfectionistic behavior.

How will I know when I'm being a perfectionist?

Listen to what you are saying to yourself. If you frequently use phrases such as, "I'm not trying hard enough" or "I don't think this is good enough," you might be indulging in perfectionism. Here are some other common traits.

  • You may think others are critical and disapprove of your efforts.
  • You may hide what you're doing because you're not sure it's good enough.
  • You may raise the bar too high, setting very difficult or impossible standards for yourself and others.
  • No matter how hard you work, you may tend to see mistakes more than successes.

How can perfectionism be managed?

  • Create better goals. What can you do that is within reach? Break goals into smaller steps so you feel progress.
  • Do things imperfectly. Make a point to try an activity that is new. Because it's new, you may not get it right on the first try. When you find it takes more effort, accept the progress you made. Cheer the attempt and celebrate the effort.
  • Enjoy the journey. Remind yourself that getting there is not always the point. Practice mindfulness to put yourself back in the present moment. Enjoy where you are in the process and celebrate completing steps on the way to your goal.
  • Look for the lessons. If you feel like you’ve failed, know you are not alone. You’re progressing. Instead of beating yourself up, take a moment to look for the lessons and learn from the situation. Remind yourself of just how valuable these lessons are when you use them in the future.
  • Be kind to yourself. You’re probably hard on yourself. So, cut yourself some slack. When you get caught up in a negative cycle of self-talk, take a moment to interrupt it and stop it. Look for something positive you can say to yourself, so you reinforce the many good points about you.

What about you? We can get into times when we’re perfectionistic. If being a perfectionist has become a pitfall instead of a positive for you, we encourage you to use the suggestions we’ve put forth today. Heed the words of Roy Bennett, “Embrace being perfectly imperfect. Learn from your mistakes and forgive yourself, you’ll be happier.”

When you’re able to balance perfectionism to avoid the pitfalls and enjoy the positives, life will be much less stressful and much more enjoyable.

Chanhassen residents Doug and Lynn Nodland are success coaches and owners of The Balance Center. Doug and Lynn can be contacted at More information and videos at