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Perfectionism – What it is and How to Overcome it

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at WPUNJ chapter.

Does being a perfectionist really identify with being successful, or is it just society’s fallacy? Although perfectionist individuals and people who want to be successful are similar in terms of the success they want to have and the high performance they show, they differ from each other in terms of motivation sources. Being a perfectionist can be thought of as a source of motivation that triggers high performance and success for individuals, along with the desire to offer better jobs, but it should not be forgotten that being a perfectionist can increase the anxiety levels of individuals and, contrary to popular belief, may also become a source of low performance. Individuals who want to be successful want to have success by trying their best in line with their own goals. Perfectionist individuals, on the other hand, unconsciously feed their feelings of inadequacy and fear under the success they want to have. Because it is linked to emotions such as anxiety and fear, perfectionism is likely to have negative effects on individuals’ self-confidence, self-esteem, and standard of living.

How to Overcome Perfectionism in 5 Steps?

1. Recognizing Perfectionist Thoughts

Perfectionism is not an attempt to control or a hostile act. Instead, it is an attempt to repair feelings of imperfection (Bhuvaneswar & Gutheil, 2008). It is an important step for the individual to realize that the perception that perfectionism makes them feel good and increases their self-confidence that they will do good work is an illusion. Awareness will bring change. When you realize that you have perfectionist thoughts about a job, taking note of these thoughts and the feelings they make you feel can make it easier to increase your awareness. Thus, you can play a more active role in analyzing your own emotions and breaking down perfectionist thoughts.

2. Providing Time Management with the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique aims to increase the efficiency of the individual by dividing the total time that the individual will work on the task into periods of twenty-five minutes, by giving a five-minute break every twenty-five minutes. Perfectionism refers to the individual’s “perfect” timing and working conditions. As long as the conditions are not perfect, not accepting them and delaying the task can turn into a critical problem for individuals after a point. Getting started and drafting a first draft that perhaps does not seem “perfect” to you will help you identify the additional needs of the assignment and then meet those needs, as opposed to procrastinating or being afraid of the work, which can reduce your productivity. Therefore, taking refuge in all kinds of excuses and feeding your sense of fear may turn into being unable to offer anything instead of presenting a successful task, and time management can help you avoid this situation!

3. Analyzing the People Around You and Changing the Environment If Necessary

Perfectionists want to be appreciated by the people around them. Their aim of achieving success in perfect conditions is always focused on the opinions of others and the approval they will receive from them. Have you ever thought that another factor that pushes you towards perfectionism might be the individuals around you? If you surround yourself with people with whom you can communicate well, you feel more comfortable with, and you don’t need to prove yourself to, you may realize that you can get approval and acceptance under any circumstance. In addition, it will be possible to get away from the anxiety that perfectionism creates in you and dominate your own feelings and thoughts.

4. Exercise and Meditation

Exercise and meditation can play a role in keeping individuals away from the chaos of daily life, helping them calm down and concentrate on their own feelings and thoughts. Olivia Remes, a researcher at Cambridge University, argues that one of the ways to deal with perfectionism is to exercise and meditate. According to Remes, being in nature, making time for physical activity, and meditating increase individuals’ creativity levels and problem-solving abilities (Bergland, 2018). In this sense, it will be a very important step to take time for physical activities in order to clarify what you want, analyze your own emotions, and focus on your own life.

5. Meeting with a Suitable Therapist

In the process of coping with perfectionism, psychotherapy will directly follow the process of self-discovery and understanding of individuals. It will also be an important tool that can guide individuals to accept themselves. Therapy aims to create an atmosphere of acceptance and make perfectionists feel more accepted for who they are rather than what they can do (Greenspon, 2008). Max Belkin, a professor at New York University, also thinks that with psychotherapy, people can become more accepting and hopeful, and reduce the pressure to be perfect (Belkin, 2014). Your therapist’s approval of your feelings and thoughts will have a positive effect on your self-acceptance while improving your healthy communication skills. In addition, the connection you establish with your therapist will enable you to develop a sense of commitment, feel understood, and have higher self-confidence.


Belkin, M. (2014). 5 steps to taming perfectionism. Psychology Today. Retrieved May 26, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/contemporary-psychoanalysis-in-action/201407/5-steps-taming-perfectionism

Bergland, C. (2018). Five Ways to Overcome Fear of Failure and Perfectionism. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201801/five-ways-overcome-fear-failure-and-perfectionism

Bhuvaneswar, C., & Gutheil, T. (2008). E-mail and Psychiatry: Some Psychotherapeutic and Psychoanalytic Perspectives. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 62(3), 241–261. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.2008.62.3.241

Greenspon, T. S. (2008). Making Sense of Error: A View of the Origins and Treatment of Perfectionism. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 62(3), 263–282. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.2008.62.3.263

Sidal Yurt


A graduate assistant at William Paterson University pursuing a master's degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology.