How perfectionism hurts us

In school growing up, being called a "perfectionist" felt like a compliment. 

When every kid was just trying to figure themselves out, "perfectionist" was a label that you could claim with some pride. It meant that you did everything perfectly. That you worked so hard and cared so much about making everything as good as it could possibly be.  

I don't believe this anymore. Nor do I want to claim the label. 

There are a few ways that perfectionism can manifest. But in my opinion, its most damaging form is this:

Perfectionism holds us back. It's an excuse we use to avoid taking risks, whether we realize it or not. In other words, when we fear we can't do something perfectly, we avoid doing it at all. 

Many of us were brought up and socialized in a way that left us feeling like we needed to do everything at the highest level. And because of this, we have performed well. We've done all of the things we were supposed to do. We've checked all of the boxes. And while things look great from the outside, we may still struggle internally with not meeting our own expectations. 

It's a weird and painful dichotomy of holding ourselves to impossibly high, unrealistic standards, while simultaneously letting our fear of not meeting those standards keep us from moving forward, taking risks, trying new things, or even taking normal, every day actions. 


  • You avoid speaking up in meetings because you don't want to be seen as not knowing the answer or being wrong

  • You don't fight for that promotion or raise because you don't want to ruffle feathers

  • You avoid talking to that mom at the playground because she looks like she has it way more together than you do

  • You put off that new job/ career/ business because you feel like you need to be an expert before you ever put yourself out there

  • You avoid money convos with your partner because you want them to believe you have it all locked down.

  • You turn down opportunities because what if you mess up and look stupid

With hindsight, I can clearly see how wanting to do everything "perfectly", or at least wanting to avoid failing, hindered both my personal and professional growth. I played it safe. I didn't take the risks to do the things that, deep down, I wanted to do. For me, it took becoming a parent to wake up and recognize what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be and to release this idea that there was one perfect way to do things. 

You cannot be perfect and grow at the same time. They are contradictory. You have to be willing to feel the discomfort of so-called imperfection to get to the next best version of yourself. 

This is why cultivating awareness of what and how you think can be so instrumental in moving you forward. You may not even realize your tendency towards perfectionism until you actually stop to question and examine what's been holding you back. 

Stop for a moment to consider how perfectionism might be showing up in your life. What have you been putting off because you're scared to be imperfect, and totally, 100% human?