5 ways to overcome perfectionism and achieve excellence

In this article I'm going to look at the difference between excellence and perfectionism and why one is far healthier for you than the other.

Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by the person striving for flawlessness along with being highly self critical

Although perfectionism will drive you to achieve well it comes at a very high cost. That's because it's all about you and how others perceive of you.

Perfectionism is selfish as it gives you no room to focus on others and it comes from a place of fear and ego which can be very exhausting.

If you're a perfectionist you can end up playing small as you don't want to risk feeling uncomfortable and want to avoid making a mistake.

However, this can lead to hiding from new opportunities and always thinkin aboutg that your work or you are not good enough.

What does perfectionism look like?

There are some classic perfectionist traits that I've listed, you may have some, all or none of them:

  • All or nothing thinking - Something is either 100% or a failure there's no grey area between and no room for 'good enough'.
  • Being in control - You find it hard to delegate because others never do it to your standards so it's easier just to do it yourself.
  • High expectations - Your standards for yourself and others are extremely high and probably unrealistic.
  • Failing to finish - There's always something more you can do on a project to get it just right which means you find its difficult to finish and share with others.
  • Lots of rules - 'Should' is a frequent word in your vocabulary and means you have reams of rules for yourself and others.
  • Procrastination - Because you don't want to make a mistake or fail you find it hard to start some projects.
  • Rumination and overthinking - You spend a long time thinking about situations that didn't go the way you wanted and 'what if' situations in the future.
  • Dips in confidence - Your confidence fluctuates according to your achievements or lack of them and to the feedback you receive.

Reading that makes me feel exhausted so I'm sure you can imagine the pressure and pain that perfectionism can bring. Let's talk about how you can overcome perfectionism.

Excellence, however, is defined as being outstanding and or extremely good

When you look to master a career or specific area of your life rather than striving to be perfect, it feels freeing, innovative and optimistic.

Excellence is a value rather than a personality trait like perfectionism. It's a value you may have at your core or an element you can choose to develop.

Achieving excellence requires you to put in time, be ready to learn and to think in an unstructured way.

It can also be risky and touch on your vulnerability, but comes from a place of curiosity rather than fear.

How do I develop excellence?

I've found these ideas really helpful for clients looking to overcome perfectionism and achieve excellence:

  • Focus on the good - Every career or part of life has aspects you won't enjoy. Look for the positives and focus on solutions rather than problems
  • Be curious - A mindset of curiosity rather than negativity will bring out the best in you and others. If a colleague behaves badly, be curious as to why rather than taking it personally
  • Take a risk - To be successful you are going to need to risk failure and as a lot of motivational quotes say 'you can learn more from failure than any success'
  • Commit to hard work - Excellence doesn't come easily but as a perfectionist I'm sure hard work doesn't scare you. Being passionate about your career or activity helps to maintain motivation
  • Challenge yourself to grow - that doesn't mean setting unrealistic standards but instead acknowledging your successes and then moving onto another challenge

When you're working towards excellence you'll feel in touch with your intuition. If you've fallen into perfectionism you may feel frustration, irritability and fear. Remember perfectionism is a game you can't win.

Now you know the difference between excellence and perfectionism, which will you choose?

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

Share this article with a friend

Written by Joanne Painter

Jo is the leading UK confidence and career impact coach. She works with women whose mindset and behaviours are holding them back, supporting them to have the skills and strategies to be authentically successful. Jo has coached hundreds of women and organisations to achieve amazing results, through 1-2-1 coaching, workshops and online programmes.… Read more

Show comments

Related Articles

More Articles