Can a Perfectionist Learn to Let Go?

In my younger years, I strived for perfectionism. Everything in my life, both work and personal had to be perfect. I worked long hours,  cleaned my home before the cleaning lady came, did my hair perfectly before going to the hairdresser….the list goes on and on.

Why do people feel they have to do things perfectly?  Judgement mostly. Judgement comes from 3 sides….the perfectionist judging themselves feeling nothing is being done good enough, the perfectionist thinking that no one can do something as well as perfectionist-300x300they can, and “thinking” there is judgement from others that everything has to be perfect. This puts so much pressure and stress on the perfectionist they can’t keep up with themselves.

Another challenge is procrastination can set in. Because the perfectionist has to do things so perfectly, quite often they delay getting a task started, because they don’t have all the answers and haven’t got it perfectly planned out in their mind, they keep delaying getting started.

People that are close to someone that is a perfectionist very often feel inadequate. This person feels like they couldn’t possibly do things as well as the perfectionist, even though they are fully capable. This can also affect families because the perfectionist often criticizes everything other’s do believing it isn’t as good as they could do themselves.

People may  express their perceived inadequacy to the perfectionist. They very often feel that they wouldn’t want to do the task the perfectionist is so good at because they can’t do it as well.  Doing things at the perfectionist level is not maintainable long-term….  I remember many years ago speaking to some junior people in a company I was working with. I was encouraging them to move forward in their career and follow the path I had taken.  They said they would never want to do what I did because it was too much work. This was a huge wakeup for me. The perfectionist is actually robbing people of living into their potential by the over the top example they are setting.

Perfectionism is exhausting, stressful, and comes from the insecure mindset…..a belief that nothing is good enough and everyone is judging them. A better alternative instead, is to strive for excellence. Accept that it is ok  not to be perfect. It is freeing! Letting go of perfectionism and striving instead for excellence will positively change every aspect of your life.





Debbie Ruston
Debbie Ruston
ENTREPRENEUR, International Trainer, Visionary Leader – Debbie has been a successful entrepreneur, since 1986 and believes in taking an active stand for true human potential. As the owner of The Success Educator, Debbie has spent her career helping individuals discover their limitations and overcome them and assists people globally in starting their own businesses. She also has a personal passion for education reform and providing youth the knowledge required to succeed in today's changed world.

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  1. Hi Steve,
    I agree, it is not something someone can keep up long term. I was fortunate to understand this in my early 30’s….when you do understand this and the difference between perfectionism and excellence, you learn to focus on what is actually important and stop sweating the small stuff.

  2. Debbie,

    One of the challenges of a perfectionist is longevity. When we are younger and have energy to burn, we can jump through hoops to attain the perfection we seek, and usually it is from our personal labor since no one else can make it perfect by me. But as we move through time we slow down, slow down enough to the point where we don’t have an unlimited supply of energy, not enough time can be spend away from our family or illnesses that supply the setbacks of life.

    This is when the perfectionist wished that he/she has built a team around him so others can build on his dream of perfection. We can only do it all ourselves for so long. And be perfect for even less.