Overcoming Perfectionism

Overcoming Perfectionism

By: Elizabeth Razzouk

It’s nearly midnight, you’ve stationed yourself at your desk with a cup of coffee in your system. Guaranteed lovely dark circles the following morning, you sit beginning to restart your essay once more. Sounds familiar? When left unrecognized, the desire for the utter lack of error in every assignment you hand in, test you complete, and task you do can lead to more harm than good. Many of us are in an environment where the pressure to be socially and academically successful is stronger than  ever been before. We get caught up on the nitty gritty details of the grand picture , and the slight flaws that we really shouldn’t be focusing on are all our eyes can look at. So we redo. Again and again, always finding fault in our work.

Striving for improvement is always a fantastic thing that helps us grow. Perfectionism, however, is when this desire to improve goes overboard. As the workload becomes heavier, the expectations we place on ourselves become much greater.

We as students have learned to find motivation fear of failure, rather than the pursuit of happiness from our successes.

Common Traits of Those with Perfectionist Tendencies Include:

  • Spending extremely long and unnecessary amounts of time on work ( e.g. your classmates spent a hour doing something that you took three hours to complete due to you constantly repeating the work).

  • Using your anxiety, negative emotions, and anger at yourself to fuel your motivation to keep on meeting your standards.

  • Refusing to allow others in a group to work on a project in fear that they will not be able to complete the task up to your expectations. You result in doing most/all the work yourself.

  • Dwelling on minor mistakes for much longer than needed.

  • Hearing others around you tell you that you place standards much too high on yourself. This can come from concerned friends/family/relatives/teachers, etc.

  • Your mindset being very all-or-nothing. Anything that is less than perfect is garbage to you, and nothing but the best must be delivered by you constantly.

  • Your successes start to become tasks and areas that you didn’t perform well enough in. Even when you did amazingly, you only seem to be able to find what you can do more in.


You’ve accepted that you have perfectionism tendencies that are doing more harm than good to your mental health. How does one overcome something that seems to be programmed into us?

1. Try to Accept Your Shortcomings

Your grade is not a judgement of yourself, your traits, or your importance as a human being. Applying that mentality that is easier said than done, but we must remember that our percentages are not a reflection of our self-worth, intelligence and ability to do well in the future. A grade is how the work you produced compared to the criteria you were graded on, which at times can  be skewed and unrealistic. (Trust me, it’s happened to so many of us.) Instead of tossing the horrible work you did into the nearest paper shredder, take some time once you’ve cooled off to read over the comments you got and advice the teacher wrote down. Next steps are there for a reason; they help us grow and perform better in the future. This mentality of acceptance and bouncing back quickly from your shortcomings is one that will benefit you in not only school, but in other aspects of your life.

2. Getting Out of Your “Present” Bubble

So often, we loathe ourselves for things will not matter one bit in the long run. Math tests I’ve performed poorly on and oral presentations I panicked over ended up being insignificant in the long run. Although right now it may even seem that it will matter that far in the future, it surely isn’t as greatly important as you currently think it is. Opportunities aren’t a one-time thing. The exam you scored poorly on, the teacher who gave you a low mark, the admissions officer that denied your application and sent you a rejection letter that hurt more than anything ever had before, they have no actual control over your happiness unless you let them. Your future success and joy in life is not controlled by outside factors most of the time unless you allow these outside factors to do so.

3. Inject Good Vibes Into Your Daily Life

Sometimes, we  have a tendency to surround ourselves with people who seem to be the “ideal” version of success. Often, this is in hope that their excellence will rub off on us, and somehow inspire us into better versions of yourself too. While this can be beneficial, it can hurt you in the long run too. If they are constantly discussing nothing but the “low” 96% they scored on the latest bio exam, always comparing themselves to others, and making you feel bad because you think you aren’t comparable to them, that will only make your perfectionism worse. Distance yourself from people who are draining your self-confidence, and spend more time with people who encourage and uplift you.

4. Mistakes Are Stepping Stones to Success

Take a second to think of your favourite teacher. They do stumble, stutter, and lose their train of thought at least a few times during the semester. these minor slip-ups of theirs may not even be noticeable to you. They don’t prevent you from learning, right? Your teacher could spent copious amounts of time perfecting their speech to make it absolutely flawless (just as how you can spend hours perfecting an oral presentation that is already well-deserving of a high mark), but they don’t. Why? Because their minor mistakes don’t prevent the class from absorbing the information and the value of the lesson. The same applies to you. Everything you complete doesn’t always need to be top notch, because our work quality isn’t always going to be consistent, no matter how hard we try or want it to be. If the errors of your favourite educator don’t matter to you, then why should yours stop you from feeling that your information is valid?

Your friends have received grades that they weren’t pleased with, but that doesn’t stop you from viewing them as intelligent and worthy. When you take some “me” time to watch a show, the goofs and gaps in editing don’t stop you from enjoying every episode you watch. A-list actors have had roles in films that ended up being box office bombs, Olympians have lost important competitions; these things don’t stop them from getting up and trying again. It’s how you deal with failure that will not only better your work, but your attitude towards yourself.

I hope this blog post was helpful in reminding you all to take a moment to desensitize, and remember that perfectionism is something that we all have a tendency to have during some point in our lives, and that we shouldn’t be focusing on being flawless in what we do, but putting everything we have into it.

Good luck everyone, you can do this!