What’s behind the perfectionism trap?

The world is constantly bombarding us with instructions to be happier, fitter, and richer, as well as other self-improvement messages. So it is not surprising that the pursuit of perfection has become an elusive trap for many. From magazine covers displaying flawless bodies to influencers flaunting their seemingly immaculate lives, society has set unrealistic standards that fuel our dissatisfaction with the ordinary.

“The rise in perfectionism in recent years can be attributed to several underlying factors and social trends. The increased presence of social networks and constant comparison with idealized images of the lives of others play an important role. Pressure to succeed and meet high standards in various areas of life, including education, career, and personal relationships, has also contributed. In addition, the cultural and societal emphasis on external validation, competition, and fear of failure further fuel the drive for perfection. The combination of these factors has created an environment that fosters and perpetuates perfectionist tendencies,” explains Smita D Jain, personal coach and TEDx speaker, to Metro.

But to what extent does the perfectionism trap really affect us? According to experts, chasing perfection is like running on a treadmill, chasing something that’s right in front of you. You can run faster and stronger, but you won’t actually reach the finish line.

“Perfectionism undermines our mental health because it feeds anxiety, insecurity and discontent. It causes more stress than is justified, with the consequent negative effects. Additionally, perfectionism can interfere with our ability to make real, authentic connections with people, leading to loneliness. It can also question our sense of inherent worth, making us feel like our worth is based on an unattainable standard. Ultimately, perfectionism sets us up for failure,” says Dr. Ashley Smith, a licensed psychologist and co-founder of Peak Mind: The Center for Psychological Strength, which works with people with anxiety and perfectionism issues.

Taylor Osbaldeston, a US-certified teacher of meditation and mindfulness and head of the nutrition and weight program at Durand Integrated Health Group, believes that breaking free of the perfectionism trap requires a combination of self-reflection, practical strategies, and challenging our self-reliance systems. beliefs.

“By understanding the roots of our perfectionism, we can understand its limitations and begin to question those beliefs. When we recognize that perfection is not achievable, we can begin to redefine our definition of success,” he stated.

And he concludes: It is also important to set realistic and achievable goals, prioritizing self-care and practicing mindfulness can also help us find greater satisfaction with our lives. Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can help develop self-awareness. Mindfulness allows us to observe our perfectionist patterns without judging them, creating greater awareness of the present moment. By practicing mindfulness, we can let go of the need for external validation and focus on what we really want.

Metro spoke to Smita D Jain to find out more.

Lowering the bar is not the same as failing, or even being mediocre. You can do a good job, even a great job, without succumbing to the striving for perfection.

— Dr. Ashley Smith, Licensed Psychologist and Co-Founder of Peak Mind: The Center for Psychological Strength

How to get out of the perfectionism trap?

Dr. Ashley Smith, a licensed psychologist and co-founder of Peak Mind: The Center for Psychological Strength, explained to Metro:

Being able to let go of perfectionism when it doesn’t serve you is the goal.

Ask yourself:

Is perfection realistic or even possible in this particular case?

Is it worth the extra time and energy it will take to chase perfection?

Will it do anything that is perfect or not? Are you 100% sure that this is the case?

Are there other people who are also perfect?

Next, practice “good enough” until you get used to it and are able to give up on perfection. For example, making mistakes, speaking honestly or authentically, and making quick decisions without over-analyzing them.


smita d jainpersonal coach and TEDx speaker

Are there positive aspects to perfectionism?

– Although perfectionism is often associated with negative consequences, there are some potentially positive aspects to consider. Perfectionism can drive people to set ambitious goals, strive for excellence, and achieve high levels of performance. It can fuel motivation, attention to detail, and a strong work ethic. However, when perfectionism becomes excessive or rigid, it can lead to stress, anxiety, and decreased well-being.

What techniques can we use to free ourselves from the perfectionism trap?

– Breaking free from the perfectionism trap requires adopting a more balanced and self-compassionate mindset. Some of the strategies that can be employed are setting realistic goals and expectations, focusing on progress rather than perfection, practicing self-care and stress management techniques, challenging negative self-talk and perfectionist thought patterns, seeking support from others, cultivate self-acceptance and gratitude. Mindfulness and self-reflection can also be helpful in developing a healthier outlook on success and embracing the beauty of imperfection. By adopting a growth mindset and valuing personal growth above external validation, we can find greater satisfaction and well-being in our lives.

Should we cultivate a healthier mindset and embrace the idea of ​​being “good enough” instead of constantly striving for perfection?

– Yes, cultivating a healthier mindset and accepting the idea of ​​being “good enough” is crucial to our well-being. This can be done by shifting our focus from external validation to internal satisfaction, acknowledging and celebrating our accomplishments, and practicing self-compassion. Setting realistic expectations and understanding that perfection is unachievable allows us to accept imperfections and learn from our mistakes. We can challenge perfectionist thoughts and beliefs by reframing them and reminding ourselves that our worth is not determined solely by our achievements. Developing self-acceptance and prioritizing self-care helps us find balance and contentment in our lives, allowing us to thrive and let go of the unrealistic pursuit of perfection.

Should we expect social changes?

– We can expect a change in social attitudes towards perfectionism. The detrimental effects of perfectionism on mental health and general well-being are increasingly recognized. As awareness increases, there is likely to be more emphasis on embracing imperfections, fostering self-compassion, and promoting a healthier mindset. The focus will be on valuing progress and personal growth rather than unattainable ideals of perfection. This change will contribute to a more balanced and satisfying approach to life, allowing us to find satisfaction in authenticity.

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