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Free Yourself from the Need to Be Perfect

Embrace imperfection and be free from perfectionism and people-pleasing


Do you have impossibly high standards for yourself – and maybe for others?

Do you beat yourself up when you make even a small mistake?

Do you find it hard to relax and do things just for fun?

Do you avoid trying new things because you might embarrass yourself?

Do you believe your worth is based on how much you accomplish and what others think of you?

If so, your desire to be perfect may be hurting you more than it’s helping.

Who says you need to be perfect?

We learn early on that we need to be perfect – that we have to look a particular way, act a particular way, and meet other people’s expectations even at the expense of our own wellbeing.

Of course, these impossibly high standards are unrealistic. No one can actually be perfect. We overdraw our bank accounts. We do things that make our spouses angry. We disappoint our parents and our bosses. We yell at our kids. We don’t have time to shop and cook, so we order pizza for a second time this week. We drink too much. We numb out in front of our televisions, video games, and phones. We don’t get enough sleep. We forget things. We are chronically late. We make bad decisions.

And while these mistakes and imperfections are all completely normal. We judge ourselves, often very harshly, for being imperfect – for being human.

The comparison trap

The problem isn’t that we’re imperfect. The problem is we think that other people aren’t; we think they’re living perfect (or nearly perfect) lives. It’s no surprise that when we compare ourselves to others, we feel completely inadequate. We think: What’s wrong with me? Everyone else seems to have it all together. I seem to be the only one who’s screwing up.

Movies, magazines, and social media give us unrealistic ideas about what we should look like and be able to do. And our childhood experiences often plant the seeds of perfectionism, giving us the message that we’re not good enough as we are. We come to believe that we need to prove our worth. We need to work harder, accomplish more, be smarter, funnier, thinner, and more accommodating. And we should be able to do it all with ease! In other words, we need to be something other than ourselves.

When we scroll through social media, other people’s lives look perfect. They’ve got cute kids, expensive vacations, lots of friends, a successful career, a kind/funny/ambitious spouse, designer clothes, and a perfect body. It certainly looks good on the outside! But even if all these outward signs of a perfect life are true, they don’t tell the whole story. They don’t tell you that behind that seemingly happy marriage is a controlling spouse and behind that bikini body is an eating disorder and those adorable kids still don’t sleep through the night. The involved in-laws are critical and demanding. And behind that big house is a woman who’s embarrassed to have people over because her house is such a mess.

Logically, we all know that no one’s perfect, but just knowing that isn’t enough to make us let go of our desire to be perfect. We either don’t see that others struggle, or we don’t hold them to the same impossibly high standards.

You might think it’s fine for other people to make mistakes — but it’s definitely not okay for you. You have to be perfect.

Through repetition, you’ve trained your brain to see what everyone else is doing right – their accomplishments and strengths and how perfect they seem. But you only see your own failures and weaknesses. Your thinking is skewed due to years of self-scrutiny and comparing yourself to other people’s highlight reel.

We struggle because we compare to everyone else's highlight reel

Clearly, it isn’t fair to hold ourselves to these ridiculously high standards – standards we can never meet. It’s no wonder we feel terrible about ourselves. It was a no-win proposition from the beginning. We can never be perfect – and when we expect ourselves to be, we will always fall short. We will always feel inadequate.

Choose authentic over perfect

Imperfection is how we connect.

Being imperfect makes us real and relatable. No one really wants a perfect friend or spouse because we couldn’t relate to them. And people who really want to connect with you don’t expect you to be perfect either. They want you to be authentic. Embracing your imperfections and letting others see the less than perfect parts of you, helps you connect more deeply.

Free yourself from the need to be perfect

Choose to embrace your imperfections and accept yourself just as you are.

Choose to let your real self be seen rather than hiding behind a façade of perfection.

Choose to stop comparing yourself to others.

You no longer have to prove your worth. You no longer have to please everyone all the time. You don’t have to compare yourself to others. You don’t have to measure up to anyone else’s idea of beauty, success, or worthiness. Some people will like you – and some won’t. And that’s okay. (By the way, not everyone liked you when you were hiding behind that facade of perfectionism, anyway.)

What you’ll gain is freedom. Freedom to be yourself, to do what feels right for you, to pursue your interests, to follow your values, to wear whatever you want, to explore who you are.

Nobody’s perfect, but we all have value – and we don’t have to keep trying to prove it.

happiness is found when you stop comparing


©2019 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Free Yourself from the Need to Be Perfect

Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin is a licensed psychotherapist and codependency expert practicing in San Jose, CA. She is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance and several ebooks including Navigating the Codependency Maze.  

To learn more, visit Sharon's website. And please sign-up for free access to her resource library HERE (worksheets, tips, meditations, and resources for healing codependency, perfectionism, anxiety and more).

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APA Reference
Martin, S. (2019). Free Yourself from the Need to Be Perfect. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Aug 2019
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