Perfectionist Toxicity: How to Overcome Perfectionism

Perfectionist Toxicity: How to Overcome Perfectionism

Many self-professed perfectionists wear their perfectionism as a badge of honor. There is no denying that these people have a keen eye for detail and often perform above the standard. However, at what cost? 

There is a blurry line between perfectionism and anxiety. Lines get even muddier when you factor in the perfectionism OCD connection. The drive to be perfect can become our most toxic trait. 

So, what is perfectionism? Is overcoming perfectionism possible? Here's why being a perfectionist might be holding you back from realizing your fullest potential and what to do about it. 

What Is Perfectionism?

According to Merriam-Webster, the are three definitions of the word perfectionism:

  • "The doctrine that the perfection of moral character constitutes a person's highest good."
  • "The theological doctrine that a state of freedom from sin is attainable on earth.
  • "A disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable."

The first definition discusses our moral compass and our need to strive to be our best self. That is an admiral goal to attain and is congruent with the ideologies of many religions. That's why Merriam-Webster also includes a theological explanation. 

The last definition is more in line with "what is perfectionism?" when it comes to careers and relationships. We are against anything short of being perfect. 

This belief shifts from trying to better ourselves morally to being the best at particular things. So, we end up struggling with perfectionism internally (morals) and externally (jobs, sports, friendships). 

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be your best. However, perfect means free from sin. In the case of jobs and hobbies, that means free from mistakes. 

While these are admirable goals to strive for, they are nearly impossible for humans to achieve. Otherwise, we'd be some omnipotent source. 

Types of Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a character trait studied by psychologists. It is a mindset that can trigger neurological responses.

Experts believe there are two types of perfectionism. Each has distinct personality traits.

At some points, these traits can produce excellent outcomes. However, they can also develop into unhealthy perfectionism.


Adaptive perfectionists are the "overachievers." These high achievers set really high standards for themselves in hopes of achieving excellence.

More likely than not, those with adaptive perfectionist tendencies exceed those expectations, only to set the bar that much higher for next time. These habits can cause them very high perfectionism and anxiety symptoms. 

Those with self-professed perfectionism might even demonstrate high-functioning anxiety. While beneficial in the short-term, high-functioning anxiety can also promote chronic stress. 

Many with adaptive perfectionism seek recognition in the form of praise or compensation. These desires can further amplify their anxiety and perfectionism triggers. 


While adaptive perfectionists adapt to the situation so they can excel, maladaptive perfectionists do the opposite. Their perfectionist thoughts make them fear failure. 

Those with maladaptive perfectionism tend not to get involved in tasks in which they won't excel. They don't like to try a new sport, go on a blind date, or take on a new job title. The mere thought can trigger symptoms of a panic disorder or anxiety disorder.

Many with maladaptive perfectionism will develop obsessive thoughts about achieving a high standard when faced with a new task. 

Those with maladaptive behaviors tend to need validation from themselves and others. They need to prove they're good at something and like to share that talent with others. 

Maladaptive perfectionists have specific tasks they know well. They would rather focus their time on these hobbies, groups of friends, or chores. 

When they perform tasks they are comfortable with, these types of perfectionists will exceed the highest standards. This drive to succeed shows an intense perfectionism OCD connection.  

One study found that children who exhibit perfectionist behavior are two times more likely to develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) by the time they become teens. 

Why Perfectionism Can Be Toxic 

Have you ever been asked, "what's your greatest strength?" during a job interview? Those trying to make a good first impression might say something along the lines of, "I'm a perfectionist to the core."

Being a self-professed perfectionist implies that you do exceptional work, are timely with your deadlines, dot every i, and cross every t. Depending on the interviewer, it might also sound a bit pretentious. 

Savvy interviewees might even claim that perfectionism is their greatest weakness. It's a humble way of saying your strength is your downfall. 

Your love for doing a good job is a true Romeo & Juliet story. Employers will believe that you would sacrifice your own happiness and well-being for the benefit of the company. Then again, they might find you pretentious.

Listen, there's nothing against trying your best and being emotionally invested in all that you do. However, it can become very thought-consuming. Eventually, perfectionism can start to have adverse mental and physical effects.

Perfectionism is a heavy burden for a mortal human. It creates expectations that are too high and can cause a person's ego to spiral out of control. 

The desire to succeed and please others can cause a strong connection between perfectionism and anxiety. Trust me; it's a battle I've dealt with my whole life. 

How to Overcome Perfectionism 

Overcoming perfectionism is challenging. Many feel that society expects us to look a certain way, know all the latest news, and be the best employee, spouse, and parent ever. No wonder why there's such a strong link between perfectionism and anxiety/OCD! 

I still struggle with perfectionism, namely as a maladaptive. My passions come easily to me. Everything else takes too long to pick up on, and I fear looking stupid to others. 

Here are some tips on how to overcome perfectionism that I find helpful. Hopefully, you will, too!

Stop Being "Sorry"

I used to apologize for everything. When I'd try to help someone figure out what's wrong with their phone and I can't do it, I'd feel dumb. If the waiter brought the wrong food to a friend at a restaurant, I said, "sorry." I even apologized to my phone when I dropped it. 

The thing is, I'm not sorry for any of these things. Sure, I wish my friend got the correct order or that my grandpa knew his phone keeps defaulting to small text. 

I don't know these things, and frankly, they're not my problem. So, I'm surely not sorry for them. So, why take ownership of things that aren't my problem? 

The mind can't differentiate the words you say. The subconscious mind absorbs anything you say out loud. So, if you're constantly apologizing, your brain trains itself to think that you have a lot to be sorry about. 

Feeling sorry isn't pleasant. So, your mind will push you to do everything possible to ensure you don't fail or let someone down. That is perfectionism. 

Stop saying sorry. You are putting yourself under a spell!

Instead, try offering solutions. Ask the waiter to put your plate on a warmer until your friends' correct order is complete. Reach out to someone else who might be able to help grandpa with the phone. Oh, and don't apologize to your device unless Siri says "ow."

Be Okay with Making Mistakes

Perfectionism can cause you to be on high alert at all times. Chronic stress creates a hormonal imbalance because we end up producing too much cortisol. Long-term excess cortisol can cause several digestive, heart, and mental health problems. 

Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to complete the task flawlessly. You are a human being. Own your mistakes.

Mistakes don't mean that you failed. It means you learned something. In fact, that perceived failure is really an opportunity to grow. 

You attempted a task, and it wasn't completed to your satisfaction. Journal what went wrong. 

Within those details, you will learn new tips to make your output better next time. Utilize these setbacks to help set yourself forward.

Try New Things

As a maladaptive perfectionist, I never did a lot of new things. I only played one sport my whole life, took college courses on subjects I already knew, and went on vacations to spots I already visited.  

One of the unhealthiest perfectionism traits is that those with socially prescribed perfectionism miss out on new memories and experiences. People tend to believe that these high achievers think they're better than others or that a game/chore/task is beneath them. That's where the whole pretentious job interview scenario comes into play.

Familiarity is comfortable. It's also a gateway to complacency. When you step outside of your comfort zone, that's when you learn new things. 

Opening yourself up to new experiences can only enrich your life and improve your chances of happiness and success. 

Set Realistic Goals

Adaptive perfectionists really struggle with the bar that they themselves raised. One day, they might create a level of perfectionism that can't be surpassed. It's an unrealistic expectation you put on yourself. 

Inevitably, your perfectionism also creates unrealistic standards that others might equate with you. Now, they are projecting their own desires onto your performance based on what you've already achieved. That's a lot of pressure to put on one person. 

Sometimes you have to reel it back. You can't show everything you have the first time out.

Eventually, people will "see it all." Where do you go from there? That's unhealthy perfectionism.

Set goals that are reachable. Create little milestones along the way to help appease your ego. Each time you achieve goals, it will become rewarding.

Also, be happy with the standard you've already set. While there's nothing wrong will always trying to be better, there's something to be said about enjoying the fruits of your labor. Celebrate your successes as they come, rather than thinking about the next big thing. 

Let Go Of Holding Onto Outcomes

Many of us become enamored with a specific outcome. We imagine ourselves making our "CEO of the Year" speech or plan the perfect wedding in our heads. 

Imaginations are adventurous and useful. However, they can also run wild. 

Don't let your thoughts get the best of you. Putting so much investment into a specific outcome can really set your heart up for a letdown. 

Also, holding onto an outcome can impede your performance in the very moment. You become so invested in the end result that you forget the steps it takes to reach that desired crescendo. Then, the big payoff means much less anyway. So, you inevitably beat yourself up to the point where you create a subpar standard. 

Tranquility Labs' Focusene

Perfectionism can really cause a perfectionist to have racing thoughts. You're so worried about X, Y, Z that you forget what comes after A. That's perfectionism and anxiety or OCD at its worst. 

Whenever we are anxious about our performance, it complicates communication on a neurological level. Seeds of doubt about your skills can sprout, and negative emotions about the task can amount. Both of these are not conducive to a productive or happy lifestyle. 


Tranquility Labs' Focusene helps reel in that imagination so that you can give your undivided attention to the task-at-hand. This all-natural supplement is formulated with botanicals, vitamins, and minerals that help support dopamine and acetylcholine production.

Acetylcholine influences our parasympathetic system, which oversees our "rest and digest." Adequate acetylcholine can help lower the increased heart rate experienced due to the pressure to perform. It also helps regulate digestive issues that tend to occur when a perfectionist is about to make a presentation. 

Meanwhile, dopamine is our body's reward center. Adaptive perfectionists are driven by the admiration of others, while maladaptive perfectionists feel of value when they don't fail. Both of these are driven by our egos looking for a reward. 

With Focusene, the process is the reward. Your brain is in search of dopamine through performing tasks. It already has the dopamine necessary, which makes performing the task itself more enjoyable. This all-natural supplement starts every task off with a perfectionist's desired end result!

Don't Let Perfectionism OCD and Anxiety Get the Best of You

There's being proud of your work, and then there's being a perfectionist. We should take pride in how we look, the relationships we maintain, and the jobs we perform. 

These are all part of our lives. However, they aren't our entire life. 

You don't always need to be "on." Stop creating expectations that are beyond reachable. Create more balance in every area of your life so that another doesn't overly consume you. 

Be okay with making mistakes. Step outside of your comfort zone and partake in more new opportunities. 

Let go of the outcomes and live in the moment. You can achieve this clarity with an all-natural boost from Tranquility Labs' Focusene. Once you let go of your perfectionist habits, overcoming perfectionism will become easier. 

Essential Takeaways:

    • There is a strong connection between perfectionism and anxiety
    • Two types of perfectionists: adaptive (seeks excellence) and maladaptive (fears failure)
    • The key to overcoming perfectionism is to live in the moment and try new things


Turmeric Face Scrub

1 Tbsp ground oats

2 capsules TL Turmeric, opened

1 tsp raw honey (Manuka is a great choice if you have it)

Combine all ingredients in a small glass bowl, mixing well to combine. It should form a soft, thick paste- add small amounts of warm water if needed, to achieve this consistency. Apply to a clean face, rubbing in circles for exfoliation. You may use just your fingers, or apply using a washcloth or face sponge. Rinse well, and follow with a moisturizer like this one from Amaki.

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