9 Reasons Perfectionism Is a Bad Thing

UPDATED: February 14, 2020
PUBLISHED: March 15, 2017

What’s wrong with wanting something to be perfect? Nothing, unless it’s leading to your failure. And that is exactly what can happen to perfectionists.

Related: How Perfectionism Hurts You

Perfectionism refers to an all-or-nothing mentality: Something is either perfect or a failure; there is one right way and the rest are wrong.

Here are nine ways perfectionism may be leading to failure for you.

1. You are never done.

For perfectionists with such high standards, a project is never done because it doesn’t meet the criteria for “perfect.” As a result, you keep working on a task but never complete it. When I was writing my first book, A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness, it took me more than two years to complete it because I was focused on making it perfect before getting it published. Maybe for you it’s a new website, an email to a new client or an article that would help market your business. All that avoidance of sharing your ideas, products or services is delaying and even preventing you and your business from growing.

2. You are stressed and discontent.

Perfectionism is extremely stressful because you’re constantly worrying about making everything perfect. Nothing is ever good enough, and that mindset robs you of ever feeling satisfied and fulfilled from your work.

3. You don’t take risks.

Although ostensibly about wanting things to be perfect, perfectionism is actually fueled by an intense fear of failure. As a result, you often adopt a mindset of, If I can’t do it perfectly, then I won’t even try. So you don’t go for the new job, apply to give a TEDx Talk or pitch a media outlet that could help market your business. In essence, your fear of failure actually makes you fail.

4. Your creativity is suffocated.  

If you are constantly stressed about doing something perfectly (and not failing), then your imagination and creativity are squashed. And innovation, which is necessary for positive change and success, is hindered for a perfectionist.

5. You strive to keep everyone happy.

As a perfectionist, you are often a people pleaser, wanting others to think highly of you. With your all-or-nothing thinking, you see yourself as “good” if people like you and “bad” if they don’t. And with people pleasing comes a lot of difficulty making decisions and avoiding important conversations, for fear that you’ll upset someone else. As such, your work is often crippled.

6. You’re highly critical of others.

Perfectionists are constantly judging themselves. And because what we say to ourselves is often reflected in how we interact with other people, you’re probably judging other people, too. You might overtly point out what other people do wrong or be more passive aggressive, saying things like, “It must’ve been nice to be able to go home at 5 p.m. instead of finishing your work.” Being highly critical of others reduces the productivity of your team, and that can lead to your failure.

7. You can’t delegate.

Being a perfectionist often means you have a hard time delegating tasks to others. With an all-or-nothing mentality, you most likely believe that there is a right way to do something and that everything else is wrong. And because other people don’t always have the same understanding, you might not approve of their way. So you think, It’s just easier to do it myself. But not delegating when you need to can cause all kinds of problems for your business and stress on yourself.

8. You personalize everything.

A perfectionist has conditional self-worth, meaning you believe in yourself—if things go perfectly, if people like you, if you do a good job. Hearing any kind of negative feedback is pretty tough because you tend to personalize it, thinking something is either perfect or it’s a failure. And then you take it a step further: If I failed, then I’m a failure. This personalizing prevents you from getting the feedback you need to become better, which can ultimately lead to real failure.

9. You never rest.

Perfectionists often have the belief that I will rest (or play) when the job is done. Of course, the job is never done because it’s never perfect enough. As such, you are at increased risk for burnout, which is a surefire way to have your business or career fail.

Related: The Secret to Ending Perfection Paralysis

Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., is a wealth psychologist helping entrepreneurs get out of their own way so they can have the successful businesses they want. Her newest book Better than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love is now available. How can you crush your inner critic? Learn more at www.ElizabethLombardo.com