Perfectionism: A Self Defeating Game

Perfectionism: A Self Defeating Game

This article on perfectionism was inspired by an email I received from a reader about setting goals. Too many of us let the inner perfectionist get the upper hand and stop us from moving forward or setting goals altogether.  I am grateful for the correspondence, it helps me to grow and get out of my own mind. Considering others perspectives allows a different level of thinking, thanks for that and I apologize if my reply was too candid, but I just gotta be me…

10 Things I work on to avoid being a Loser, I mean perfectionist…

Perfectionism: A Self Defeating Game

1. All or nothing thinking:  This is a self defeating game in itself but don’t confuse this with being completely invested in what you are doing.

There is no such thing as being half pregnant, and there is no room for that style of thinking if you are going to get your Creative Success Mechanism cranking.

Being All In simply means you are fully invested mentally, physically, spiritually and financially. You have moved past thinking about something and become committed to the cause.

All or nothing thinking is different, it is the mindset of “Nothing is ever good enough…”. 

This used to be a big problem for me. I never started anything that I couldn’t see my way to the finish.

It was sandbagging really, I was so worried about looking perfect that I wouldn’t start anything that I didn’t have a perfect chance of completing.

I was the ultimate champion at failure avoidance because of this. With the added luxury of hindsight, I wish I would have given up this all or nothing thinking a lot sooner.

My last words on this topic:

Start where you are… Use what you have… Do what you can…

That will always be enough.

Perfectionism: A Self Defeating Game2. Being too critical of everything you see and hear:  When you receive a hundred compliments but get stuck on the one piece of criticism, this is perfectionism creeping in.

We have to avoid allowing simple things like this to affect our self esteem.

On the other side of things, if you walk into a room and only see what is wrong with every situation and not all the good stuff, you are being far too critical.

Don’t do it.

3. Pushing too hard: If you have ever heard the saying, “If you want things done right, you have to do them yourself.” this is pretty typical thinking in the camp of perfectionism. Delegate and outsource are the biggest sins in the eyes of the perfectionist but seriously how much can you really achieve doing everything yourself?

There is nothing more powerful than two or more people working together with a common goal. Allow yourself to be pulled sometimes and for heavens sake stop expecting so much from yourself.

Which leads us right into #4.

Perfectionism: A Self Defeating Game4. Setting unrealistic expectations:  Have you ever done this? Write out your To-Do List and then get frustrated at the end of the day because you weren’t able to cross anything off.

It is a classic perfectionist move. Expecting to have the ability to do too many things in too short of a time period.

Putting too much on your plate and imposing more on yourself than you would expect from anyone else is a sure sign of perfectionism.

Trying writing a don’t do list instead and be satisfied with what gets accomplished.

5. Obsessing about results:  Results are important, I have been results driven my entire life. Yes, sometimes too a fault, that’s why you should trust what I am saying here.

When everything becomes about the result, processes get lost. When you become so focused on the result that you lose track of what happens along the way, the costs often exceed the result anyways.

If you are finding yourself addicted to the result and not enjoying the journey along the way, it’s time to back off. More often than not results improve when we don’t force them anyways…

Perfectionism: A Self Defeating Game6. Getting disappointed when not hitting goals:  Disappointment leads to discouragement which leads to depression. When we can’t meet our goals there is often more to be learned than when we do. Failure is simply an opportunity to learn and do better, it offers us a series of points to correct our course, re-examine what we are trying to accomplish, change time frames and update expectations.

When I started out as an entrepreneur I would often fall off into depression because I wasn’t hitting my goals. What I eventually learned is that the best laid plans still need to be left open to a certain percentage of uncertainty and with that we need to remain flexible in our thinking.

Just because you don’t hit your goal by a certain date, doesn’t mean that you were wrong in setting the goal, you simply might have been wrong with the timeframe.

Reset the goal, adjust accordingly and instead of getting disappointed, start asking yourself what you can learn from the situation.

As an entrepreneur I learned that start-ups often take twice as long to move through the different stages that you had hoped they would, sometimes you just have to have the courage to let things evolve…

7. Fear of Failure:  Perfectionists want things to go right and want things to go their way. I already mentioned above that failure is simply an opportunity to learn.

If you are afraid to fail then you may be missing out on a great opportunity to learn. My biggest lessons in life have always come disguised as setbacks, failures and crushing defeats.

While it may be hard to welcome that sort of stuff into your world, you have to shake off the FEAR (False Emotions Appearing Real) and understand that regardless of outcome, there is incredible value in everything.

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill


Perfectionism: A Self Defeating Game8. Procrastination:  Read 1-7 again. If you are waiting for everything to be perfect before getting started, you are a perfectionist.

9. Getting overly defensive: – Perfectionists like to be right and like to look, well, perfect. Therefore they don’t respond well to criticism. If you find yourself getting upset when scrutinized, guess what, you are suffering from perfectionism.
When we put this front up, we tend to miss out on a lot of opportunity for growth and honestly just a lot of genuine interactivity because who really wants to hang out with someone who has to be right about everything?

It is annoying…

Perfectionism: A Self Defeating Game10. Having low self-esteem:  This is what drives a lot of people to display all the characteristics of perfectionism in the first place.

We want to feel good about ourselves, it isn’t wrong, it is just the way that it is. When parts of our lives aren’t going the way we want them to, we often over compensate by trying to make things perfect.

It is yet another self defeating game and sign of perfectionism.

We are all good enough, smart enough and talented enough.

Understand and believe that about yourself.

Look to create more of the things that are working in your life and less of the things that aren’t.

Final Thoughts On Perfectionism:

Our individual success in life rarely comes down to how perfectly we do something the first time but rather how many times we choose to do it. 9 times of 10 it is in the doing that we become better…

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11 Responses to Perfectionism: A Self Defeating Game

  1. markdhogan September 23, 2013 at 4:54 am #

    Mike, great post, I especially liked number 8 waiting for everything to be perfect. We are taught in school not to fail but in life we learn our best lessons from mistakes and failures

    • Mike September 24, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      You are so right Mark. I suffered from this type of procrastination for a long time and I still run head first into it quite often. I have found that the things I FEAR the most are the things that I most need to face straight up… By always waiting for things to be perfect, I never made any progress in life, simple because, well, life is never perfect. Once we get over the basic fears of failing and criticism, etc. and start looking at our undesired outcomes as opportunities to improve and get better we start moving ahead at almost exponential rates!

      Thanks so much for coming by, I really enjoy your blog on Branding and and appreciate your comments!


  2. Emerald September 25, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    I have suffered with perfectionism and it has manifested in ways that are very tangible. The thing about being critical of yourself, is that you’re just as hard on everyone else. When you start to accept yourself for who you are, no matter what your issue may be, you’re finally able to move forward. Thank you for this post and I look forward to reading more. -Emerald

    • Mike September 25, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

      Wise words Emerald and very true.
      I am glad you enjoyed the post, come back soon.

  3. blessedart1111 October 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    Great post Mike, I never thought of myself as such a perfectionist…well maybe just a little, but now I might have to think again after reading your post. I guess it’s time for a reexaminations and self modifications;-) Thanks for sharing Mike!


    • Mike October 31, 2013 at 6:17 am #

      Self mastery is the hardest yet most worthwhile endeavour!

      To achieve the most ROI on life often takes getting a little uncomfortable every day. A great place to start with that for me has been taking a honest look into myself…


  4. Dave Shackelford December 3, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    Great post, Mike. Like you, I’m a “recovering” perfectionist. I appreciate your insights and ideas on the lies of perfectionism. Keep lookin’ up!

    • Mike December 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

      “Recovering”, Well said Dave. Keep fighting the good fight, thanks for visiting.

  5. Chris March 21, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    This definitely was me until recently. I am a recovering perfectionist as well. I adopted the phrase “Progress Not Perfection” that I saw Jeremy Frandsen post on Twitter and it has helped tremendously.

    • Mike March 21, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

      I like that Chris, “Progress not Perfection”

      It sums up nicely how I try to live my life by becoming a better version of myself today than I was yesterday.

      I am glad I gave up being a perfectionist…

      Thanks for commenting.


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