Perfectionism: A Journey to Balance


Perfectionism: A Journey to Balance

Perfectionism; While aiming for excellence can be positive, let’s also consider how perfectionism may have affected your life in not-so-desirable ways. Perfectionism can sometimes lead to negative outcomes, affecting mental health, relationships, and overall well-being. Hence, let’s understand what perfectionism is, how it affects us, and how we can manage it.

Written By: Sin Tze Ean Cyan (Clinical Psychology Trainee)

Verified By: Kelly Chan Jia Li, Clinical Psychologist (MAHPC(CP)00353)


Do you strive to achieve flawlessness and set high standards for yourself and often others?

What is Perfectionism?

“I can still do better. I should have done better.”

Does this inner voice sound familiar to you?


Perfectionism is a personality trait that involves striving for high standards and a tendency to be excessively critical of oneself. It’s like an internal voice continuously pushing for better results, often disregarding personal well-being and realistic limitations. For perfectionism, mistakes are not tolerated. You may do well in one thing, but that isn’t good enough.

Types of Perfectionism
Self-Oriented Perfectionism

This form of perfectionism involves imposing high standards on yourself. It consists in being highly self-critical and constantly striving to meet your own demanding goals, no matter how unrealistic those goals may be.

Other-Oriented Perfectionism

This type of perfectionism involves setting high standards for others. You have an expectation for perfection from those around you, and their mistakes aren’t tolerated. This often leads to conflicts in relationships.

Socially Prescribed Perfectionism

This involves a belief that others expect you to be perfect. You fear that you don’t meet their expectations, and this perception can lead to intense pressure and fear of judgment or rejection.

The Allure of Perfectionism
Motivation and Achievement

Perfectionists often achieve a lot because they push themselves to excel.

Attention to Detail

They tend to notice and correct even minor errors, ensuring high-quality work.

The Pitfalls of Perfectionism
Stress and Anxiety

The constant pressure to meet high standards can lead to chronic stress and anxiety.


Fear of making mistakes can result in procrastination, as you might delay tasks to avoid failure.


Continuous striving without rest can lead to burnout, where you may feel physically and emotionally exhausted.

The Root Causes of Perfectionism

Several factors can contribute to the development of perfectionist tendencies:

Parental Influence

Growing up with parents who had high expectations can instil a drive for perfection.

Societal Pressure

Media and cultural standards often glorify flawless success, influencing individuals to adopt perfectionist behaviours.

Personal Traits

Some people are naturally inclined towards meticulousness and high achievement, which can evolve into perfectionism.

The Impact of Perfectionism on Mental Health

The perfectionistic mind reminds you of all the mistakes, shortcomings, and failures you’ve made throughout your life to make you think you are the problem. This inability to meet your standards can thus lead to low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and depression.


Perfectionists often experience chronic anxiety due to the fear of making mistakes or failing to meet expectations. “What if I made a mistake?” “What if this doesn’t turn out perfect?” “What if this isn’t good enough?” “What if I’m not good enough?” These ‘what-ifs’ and anticipation of the future lead to anxious thoughts that spiral out of hand.

Eating Disorders

The perfectionistic mind is never satisfied – no matter how slim, curvy, tall, or short you are. There always seems to be something you can do to change your body to look perfect. This unrealistic expectation for an ideal body image can contribute to eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.

Managing Perfectionism
Setting Realistic Goals

Understand and accept that perfection is unattainable. It is encouraged to aim for progress, not perfection. Break tasks into smaller, manageable parts and celebrate small victories.

Embrace Mistakes

Understand that making mistakes is a part of learning and growth. Instead of fearing failure, try reframing it as an opportunity to improve.


Let’s be kind to yourself. Recognize that everyone makes mistakes and that failure is a part of learning. Treat yourself with the same understanding and patience you would offer a friend.

Mindfulness and Relaxation

Engage in mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga to reduce stress and maintain a healthy perspective. Mindfulness practices keep you grounded in the present moment and can help reduce the tendency to overthink and ruminate over your flaws, mistakes, or imperfections.

Seeking Support

If you find yourself struggling with managing perfectionism, it would be advisable to talk to friends, family, or a mental health professional who can provide valuable support and help in managing perfectionist tendencies.

In a nutshell

Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. While it can drive us to achieve and excel, it can also lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout. By understanding perfectionism and implementing strategies to manage it, we can lead a more fulfilling and healthier life. Embracing imperfections and setting realistic goals are essential steps towards finding that balance. Remember, perfection is an illusion; it’s our imperfections that make us unique and human.

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