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Perfectionist? Impossible!

Perfectionism is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable especially : the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.  Me, a perfectionist?  No way. I don’t even come close. You’ve seen the unfinished sentences and typos in my posts.  I can send out three emails on the same subject one after the other because instead of planning what I wanted to say I kept hitting send after one thought. I have a reputation for wearing gym clothes wrong side out when I dress early in the AM. Does that sound like I’m striving for perfection?

In my mind, I’m so far from doing tasks perfectly that I didn’t even consider being perfectionistic.  There are definitely people who won’t stop until they have perfection. That’s not me. But over the past year though I’ve learned that I am a perfectionist in other ways.  I wonder if many emotionally sensitive people are perfectionists and don’t realize it. Here are some ways to notice sneaky perfectionism

     1.   You always criticize what you do.  Even when others are congratulating you, you’re thinking about how you could have improved whatever task you completed.  You notice what went wrong to the point it doesn’t even matter what went right. The pie crust is flaky and flavorful (wait for it, here it comes) but it shrunk a bit when you baked it. The talk was received well and the points were clear (wait….) BUT you left out a part that you really wanted to emphasize. Perfectionism can be when you don’t let what you (or others)  do be good enough.

2.  You  minimize your accomplishments.  If you find yourself saying, “It wasn’t that hard,” “Other have done a lot more,” or   “It’s not a big deal,” and you truly mean it, then you may be minimizing what you’ve done. If you write a blog, you compare yourself to people who have a million followers or people who have written books. You sew a suit and then minimize it by saying, “It’s just homemade, you can see how some of the seams aren’t straight.” Others have done more, done it faster or better, or in some way that makes your accomplishment less meaningful.  In hindsight, many accomplishments may not seem as difficult as they might look to someone who hasn’t completed it yet. See how you are making what you did “less than?”  It’s another way of finding yourself not good enough because someone has always done more or done it faster.

 3.  You hide what you do because it’s not good enough. You paint but don’t show your work to anyone. You don’t turn in assignments and don’t speak up at the office because you don’t want to be wrong. You don’t voice your opinion when it’s different from others because you don’t really know enough to be certain about your thoughts.

4.  You are never satisfied with yourself.  You are either too heavy  or too thin, or your clothes don’t fit right, or your hair needs trimming, or you are overdressed, etc. etc.

Do any of these fit you? Perfectionism is often part of low self-confidence and being discontent with your life. You may be perfectionistic in only one area or more than one. If you recognize the characteristics in yourself, maybe it’s time to practice letting yourself and what you do be good enough and celebrate your accomplishments. Give it some thought.















Perfectionist? Impossible!

Karyn Hall, PhD

Karyn Hall, Ph.D. is the owner/director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston, a DBT-Linehan Board of Certification, Certified Clinician, a RO DBT Approved Supervisor and Trainer and owner of, an online educational program. She is a trainer/consultant as well as a therapist and certified coach, author of The Emotionally Sensitive Person, SAVVY, Mindfulness Exercises for DBT Therapists, and co-author of The Power of Validation. Her podcast, The Emotionally Sensitive Person, is available on iTunes.

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APA Reference
Hall, K. (2018). Perfectionist? Impossible!. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Nov 2018
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