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Are You Failing to Stop Being a Perfectionist? You are Not Alone

Did you feel that you needed to be perfect growing up? Perfectionist tendencies are most often started when people are children. It can have its origins in the school system, in peer groups, or be handed down from parents through expectations.


Recently, on Grey’s Anatomy, there was a very brilliant scene. Mark Sloan, a perfectionist plastic surgeon did not want to allow Dr. Richard Webber to transplant a less than perfect liver. Dr. Webber insisted that the liver was good. This is what he said to Mark Sloan, the acting chief, that had such a profound effect and allowed the lifesaving surgery to continue.

“Well, I don’t need pretty and I don’t need perfect…what I need is for this to work” Richard Webber (Grey’s Anatomy).

This scene had impact and as a recovering perfectionist myself, it really made a lot of sense.

Signs that You are a Perfectionist

  • You routinely take on more than you can do
  • You have unrealistic expectations of what you can do
  • You have unrealistic time frames in which you want to accomplish what you want to do
  • You never think that what you do is good enough
  • You have higher standards of behavior or achievements for yourself than you do for others
  • You are always trying to prove yourself and have a hard time relaxing
  • You beat yourself up, usually verbally or through other self-destructive behaviors (such as gambling, drinking, overeating, overspending, sexual addictions, or other addictions) when you perceive yourself as having failed at your task

Just Say No to Perfectionist Tendencies

That sounds simple and it isn’t. The person who is a practicing perfectionist has a hard time saying no. They can’t say no to requests that are not in their best interests. They can’t say no to themselves when they set unrealistic expectations.

Let’s talk about Sally. She works full time, has a family to care for on top of work responsibilities. She has been up with her teething infant for two nights in a row. Just as she is about to sink into her couch and have a light nap, she gets a phone call asking her to bake 6 dozen cupcakes for her son’s kindergarten bake sale.

If Sally is a perfectionist, she will immediately think “Yes, I can do that!” in spite of her growing exhaustion. Her mind will race at break neck speed, frantically trying to find a way to manage it. If Sally is a realist, she will say “I really wish I could but no…not this time around…maybe next time.” Or if she really wanted to contribute to the bake sale, she could offer to make a donation of cash, in lieu of the cupcakes, or come up with another arrangement that worked for her.

Self-care is not a priority for people who have perfectionist tendencies. They look after everyone else’s needs first. The problem here is that no one looks after you, do they? If you harbor an idea in the back of your mind that someone else will do it for you, it doesn’t work that way…

Is Compulsion a Part of Being a Perfectionist?

It might be…if you feel that you MUST be perfect, if you feel that you have NO choice, then those are signs that it is a compulsion. In that case, just saying no will be very difficult for you. In that case, there are NLP techniques that can help…one of those is the compulsion blowout. 

The compulsion blowout technique can be done by yourself; however, because it involves intensifying the compulsion first, it might be better to have this done with an NLP practitioner as your guide. The compulsion blowout can be done quickly, if you do it right. : D

Letting the Idea of Being a Perfectionist Go

Surrender is an important part for the recovering perfectionist to embrace. For those of you who aren’t compelled to be a perfectionist, here is a simple technique. 

Visualize an event in the future, a small event where in the past you would have played the part of a perfectionist. Imagine yourself at that time in the future…see yourself in that event…hear yourself saying no…feel good about saying no…feel that power…deep inside… 

Imagine a world where you are important…where you can set time aside to take care of yourself…where you allow yourself to take breaks…let go of any resistance and struggle…yes, you can…just let it go…like a soft breeze that just passes through…feel that love that you have for yourself and let that kindness flow over you…embrace that calm…and just be…and realize that you are enough…just the way you are…

All you can do is enough…isn't it? Yes…strive for excellence…let the idea of perfection go. Once you see that there is a law of diminishing returns in being a perfectionist, that is isn’t doing you any good, it gets easier to just let it go…

“Drive your own life…you deserve to, don’t you?”  Sherie Venner

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I am a Relationship Coach who helps others create happy, healthy, loving relationships…including the relationship they have with themselves…by breaking through those blocks and barriers to success. I use various techniques gathered through training as a Master Practitioner of NLP, timeline, hypnosis and common sense gathered through life experience.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anthony January 12, 2014, 10:40 am

    Are there therapies for stoping to be a perfectionist?

  • Mary September 30, 2012, 3:18 am

    Dear Sherie, I have just found out that all my depressed behaviors and unhappy life, all the argues with my husband is because of my perfectionism!!! It is making my life a misery!! I cannot start doing anything I am so afraid to even sit behind my desk!! I’m not sure if only reading tips could get me any help, please tell me what I need to do!!!!

    • Sherie September 30, 2012, 12:10 pm

      In that case, Mary, you need to seek help…there is no shame in doing that…find a trusted counselor, psychologist, a practitioner of NLP or hypnosis…you could contact me on my contact page or look here for how this works and we could schedule an introductory session. It’s twenty minutes…to see if I can help you…

      • Mary October 1, 2012, 10:57 am

        Dear Sherie,
        Thank you for replying! The problem is I’m living in Asia right now, so no access! I have reached for help, a psychologist, but he didn’t give me any strategies to follow! He just retold me what I knew about myself! Is there anything I could do on my own to improve the situation?

        • Sherie October 1, 2012, 3:22 pm

          Mary, have you tried the exercise in this post? Here is another post to read http://sherievenner.com/2012/why-you-dont-need-to-be-perfect-to-achieve-goals/…as well, if you are interested in a discovery session, as I mentioned…there is skype…usually, under perfectionism there can be a variety of negative beliefs, that need to be addressed in a direct manner.

          • Mary October 2, 2012, 6:02 am

            Dear Sherie, I read the post, really great! I would love to have the discovery session on Skype if you would just tell me how to get an appointment! Thank you for providing the opportunity over seas 🙂

          • Sherie October 2, 2012, 9:58 am

            Mary, I look forward to talking with you on Skype! Please fill in the form on this page…click here…, indicating the reason for the discovery session and what time zone you are in. We can go from there as to times and dates when we are both available.

          • Mary October 7, 2012, 1:54 am

            Dear Sherie,
            I decided to change my therapist and get some help, thank you for your nice postings.

          • Sherie October 7, 2012, 10:25 am

            You’re welcome, Mary, and best of luck! If you ever decide to do a discovery session, just let me know…: D

  • Mildred Cook July 13, 2012, 7:22 am

    What if you’re a perfectionist but once you failed you take it so hard then you disagree with people saying you’re desperate

    • Sherie July 13, 2012, 8:48 am

      Mildred, when we seek “perfection”, we set ourselves up for failure. There really is no perfection, there is life, full of imperfections. Be gentle with yourself and do the best you can…that is all any of us can do…and keep learning…

  • Dr. Sarah David April 23, 2012, 11:54 am

    Good is good enough! Words from a self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Sherie April 23, 2012, 8:54 pm

      Absolutely, Sarah!!! : D : D

  • Suzanne Jones April 22, 2012, 11:27 pm

    My hand is up. I am kind of a recovering perfectionist. I could still answer yes to some of your points!
    Informative post, and I love NLP!!!

    • Sherie April 23, 2012, 8:05 am

      Thank you, Suzanne!! I love NLP, too!!

  • Stacey Myers April 22, 2012, 1:26 pm

    I definitely have a bit of a perfectionist gene that gets in the way sometimes.

    Thanks, Sherie!

    • Sherie April 22, 2012, 2:53 pm

      It is more common than we think, Stacey! Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Sue Glashower April 22, 2012, 11:36 am

    Wow Sherie, I think you wrote this for me! I am learning but it is a process. It puts a lot of added stress on a person if they are a perfectionist. Great article!

    • Sherie April 22, 2012, 12:07 pm

      It is a process…I am glad that the article hit home for you and thank you for your comment! : D

  • Rhonda Uretzky April 21, 2012, 5:10 pm

    Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time! And the longer you wait to be “perfect” before you act, the longer you stay in a holding pattern going nowhere. My favorite slogan is. Ready, Fire, Aim! That is, great ready, fire away, and adjust after you see the results. The secret of life is, after all, constant adjustment.

    • Sherie April 21, 2012, 6:24 pm

      Very good points, Rhonda!

  • Norma Doiron @Where Aspiring | Budding Business Owners Start, Grow or Strengthen Their Business April 20, 2012, 12:29 pm

    Not sure I like you talking about me in your articles! Lol! No, seriously, you described me well… that is the me I used to be. I can safely say that I am more balanced today. T’was a great trip down memory lane!!! 🙂

    • Sherie April 20, 2012, 12:38 pm

      LOL, Norma, you are such a sweetie and so funny! Thanks for your comment and glad that you are more balanced today…that is what we are all working towards, isn’t it? : D

  • Tony Taylor April 19, 2012, 6:48 pm

    I am so glad I am far away from being a perfectionist! Great post Sherie!

    • Sherie April 19, 2012, 8:23 pm

      Good for you, Tony!! Perfectionism is not all it is cracked up to be! : D

  • Anita April 19, 2012, 6:11 pm

    I am a recovering perfectionist..what a wonderful new beginning it was for me to let it all go 10 years ago 🙂 So blessed to be connect with you and thank you for all you do!

    • Sherie April 19, 2012, 6:46 pm

      Anita, there are so many of us!! Awww….so glad to be connected with you, my dear and thank you!!!

  • Sara Nickleberry April 19, 2012, 11:09 am

    I am a recovering perfectionist! How liberating to let that go.

    • Sherie April 19, 2012, 11:41 am

      It really is, Sara!! : D

  • Sue Graber April 19, 2012, 1:26 am

    Guilty….to many of the statements. I definitely need to work on this. And, I can see that some of these tendencies have carried through to my children. I love the way you shed light on this. Thank you, Sherie, for opening up my eyes to this more clearly.

    • Sherie April 19, 2012, 2:21 am

      You are so welcome, dear Sue, these tendencies affect so many of us…thank you for reading the post and for taking time to comment, I appreciate you!

  • Theresa Cifali April 18, 2012, 8:01 pm

    This was an amazing post, Sherie! I wouldn’t say that I am a perfectionist, per se, but I do possess some of the qualities you describe. I wonder if “overachiever” and “perfectionist” are interchangeable terms. I know I put an awful lot of pressure on myself. This is something I have to work on everyday!

    • Sherie April 18, 2012, 8:42 pm

      They definitely could be interchangeable terms, Theresa! Glad that you are working on easing up the pressure…sometimes, we are so much harder on ourselves than on anyone else! Thanks so much for your kind words. : D

  • Mandy Edwards April 18, 2012, 7:26 pm

    I REALLY needed this post! Thanks Sherie!! I am confessed perfectionist. I tend to take on more than I can handle because I think I can do it all, when in reality I can’t. Thank you for sharing this – I appreciate it 🙂

    • Sherie April 18, 2012, 7:39 pm

      You are so welcome, Mandy! As a recovering perfectionist myself, I so know where you are coming from! : D Thanks for commenting!!

  • Lorii Abela April 18, 2012, 1:55 pm

    Great post, Sherie. Thank you for sharing your insights. I agree with you that no one’s perfect. Our imperfections makes us real. So this being perfectionist thing, we should really let it go.

    • Sherie April 18, 2012, 2:08 pm

      We really should, Lorii! Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Alexandra McAllister April 18, 2012, 11:51 am

    Sherie, this is a great article! From the “signs” you’ve listed, I see that I have replied “yes” to a number of them. Looks like I have some work to do on “letting go on the idea of being a perfectionist!” Thanks for sharing your insights!

    • Sherie April 18, 2012, 12:24 pm

      Thank you, Alexandra! We all have work to do since none of us are really “perfect”…it is just an illusion…

  • denny hagel April 18, 2012, 11:03 am

    Excellent article that we all need to read! Perfectionism is sooo limiting! Thanks for sharing your insights!

    • Sherie April 18, 2012, 12:37 pm

      Thank you, Denny!