Dr Eddie Column: Transforming perfectionism

Learn to recognise if you have a problem with perfectionism
Increasingly in my practice I have noticed people unhappy as a result of perfectionism. Perfectionism is really an anxiety issue and is more common than you think.

Increasingly in my practice I have noticed people unhappy as a result of perfectionism. Perfectionism is really an anxiety issue and is more common than you think.

Most people consider having high standards a good thing. Striving for excellence shows a strong work ethic and strength of character, but mistakes can still sometimes happen.

Perfectionists however set such high standards that they cannot be met, or are met with great difficulty. They believe that anything short of perfection is horrible, and even minor mistakes lead to catastrophe.

Perfectionist Feelings

Perfectionists can feel depressed, frustrated, anxious and angry, especially if always criticizing themselves for not doing a good enough job. So it is worthwhile to loosen up standards to ease the stress felt from trying so hard to be perfect.

Perfectionist thinking

John says “Anything less than perfection is a failure”, “If I need help from others, then I am weak”. He says “If I make a mistake in front of my colleagues , I won’t survive the humiliation”, He spends all night preparing for a presentation, and says “I know I won’t do well”,

Perfectionist behaviour

Putting off, not completing, or giving up tasks easily

Overly cautious and thorough.

Excessive checking for mistakes

Constantly re-doing tasks to improve them

Agonizing over details

Making long “to do” lists

Avoiding trying new things at risk of mistakes

changing Perfectionism

1: Learn to recognize it.

This is a big first step, as it helps you to see if you have a problem with perfectionism. Remember, there is nothing wrong with having high standards, but when these standards are too high, they can really get in the way of work, relationships and enjoying life.

2: Swap perfectionism for realism. End negative self-talk. Instead say: “Nobody is perfect!” “All I can do is my best!” “Everyone makes mistakes!” “It’s okay not to be pleasant all the time. Everyone has a bad day sometime.” “It’s okay if some people don’t like me!”

3: Look at the bigger picture View situations as other people might see them. How might someone else ( a close friend) view this situation?

4: Don’t get bogged down in details – Ask yourself “Does it really matter? What is the worst that could happen? If it does happen, can I survive it? Will this still matter tomorrow? “

5: Changing behaviours Do things to challenge your boundaries:

Show up for an appointment 10 minutes late

Leave a visible area in the house a little messy

Say it if you are tired

Send an e-mail that includes a few mistakes

Lose your train of thought during a presentation

Stop checking – set time limits , check once and let it go, finish it

Wear odd socks

6: End procrastination Many perfectionists cope with a fear of mistakes by procrastinating.

Create realistic schedules. Set your priorities. Break down larger tasks into steps with time limits. Write down the goal or deadline, and work towards it, setting small goals along the way.

Remember, the goal is completion, not perfection.

Taking perfectionism out of your life does not mean having no standards. Realistic standards are standards that can help you to do your best without costing you things that are more important, such as family life, physical and mental health, and leisure time.


If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting and work groups. Call Dr Eddie on 087 1302899 or visit www.dreddiemurphy.ie