6 Ways to Overcome Your Perfection Obsession

Jennifer Brown Banks


For many years, I tried to deny it. My obsession for perfection and how it shaped my life, distorted my expectations. How this inner-demon wreaked havoc with my peace: as a worker, as a woman, as a writer. I tried to call it everything else: high standards, meticulousness, thorough-mindedness, etc.

“But a rose by any other name is still a rose.”

Dr. Phil often says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge first.”

So, here’s yet another step in my process to take back my tranquility, sense of purpose and accept myself in all my myriad phases, stages and flaws.

I am a Recovering Perfectionist.


Being raised with high standards, I always thought perfectionism was an admirable goal: I was rewarded for perfect grades, for doing chores perfectly, etc. and it felt awesome. (All through high school and college I was on the honor roll.)

I didn’t realize that in the evolving years as an adult, it impacted almost every decision. It caused me to over analyze things and fed many fears. I was overwhelmed and overstressed. Always trying to get things "perfectly" right. I was Martha Stewart in training.

Then as I got older, miraculously stuff changed. As I matured emotionally, I cared less about what others thought. At least to some degree.

I cut myself some slack. I realized that there is honor in effort. And that mistakes and imperfections can provide great learning experiences and opportunities for growth, if we frame them correctly.

After all, even diamonds have flaws.

I reconciled myself to the fact that a home that isn’t dusted everyday, a less than perfect credit score, a high body mass index, or over indulgence in chocolate won’t keep me out of the gates of heaven.

Nor will it for you.



In the popular book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” Dr. Carlson shares: “Whenever we want to have something a certain way, better than it already is, we are engaged in a losing battle. Rather than being grateful for what we have, we are focused on what’s wrong with something and our need to fix it. Eliminate your need for perfection in all areas of your life, and you’ll begin to discover the perfection in life itself.”

In the spirit of the book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,“ I’ve decided to have a paradigm shift..

Here is what I’ve learned consequently, and you will too.

1. A misplaced comma or occasional typo won’t ruin your professional reputation, brand you with a “scarlet letter” or compromise your reader’s experience.

Embrace the mistake, learn from it, then move on. Here’s a case in point. Years ago, I published my own series of E-books for writers to expand my brand. I was so proud of all the hard work behind it. I went through great lengths to make sure that it would be a valuable resource for bloggers and writers across the globe. Fast forward…

I submitted one of my books to a local review site for a book review. Though it got positive feedback it was also criticized for my usage of commas. I was shocked and somewhat offended that the reviewer decided to highlight something so trivial. But, alas, he didn’t get the final word. I wrote a rebuttal piece and sent it off to a few Ezines for writers. Guess what? My piece sold to two different publications. So, I was able to turn something negative into something positive and profitable with a little creativity.

2. Humor helps.

As a wise man once said, “If you can laugh through it, you can live through it.”A flaw may seem painful or embarrassing when it initially happens, but as time passes you’ll likely be able to make peace with it and even poke fun at yourself.

3. Before your “opus” goes public, have a second set of eyes review it.

Particularly for special projects, books that you will charge for, etc.

I kid you not, I have proofed articles over and over again without seeing an error. Then when I read it for the 4th time after I hit the “publish“ button, a small mistake can jump right out at me. Go figure. Sometimes our minds can trick our eyes in to seeing what we “intended” to say, as opposed to what actually appears. That’s why having someone else to look over it when possible doesn’t hurt.

4. Consider a paradigm shift.

Instead of striving for perfection, aim for excellence instead. It affords greater peace and greater odds. As far as I know, there’s only one “perfect source” and it is God.

5. Celebrate small victories along the way.

It takes courage to be a writer, a blogger, an author, a speaker. To face rejection from editors, agents, readers. Hello! For every step you make toward your goals, (a class taken, a book bought, a chapter completed, etc.) give yourself a pat on the back. You’re one step closer to where you desire to be.

6. Take a page from Comedian Steve Harvey's playbook.

His was a blunder I thought he would never crawl from under. Remember? Years ago Harvey served as the host for the Miss Universe Pageant and mistakenly called the wrong name.

Here’s how MoneyCNN.Com reports it: “Miss Colombia was the first runner-up, Harvey said, holding up the card that contained the official results.

The real winner was Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, who looked astonished by the sudden turn of events. The almost unbelievable ending to the pageant was televised live in many countries, including on the Fox network in the United States.

Wurtzbach covered her mouth in shock when Harvey announced the correction. Then she walked out to the front of the stage and waited for Gutierrez to hand over the crown. Harvey stood to the side, visibly embarrassed, while the crowd cheered. On the card he was holding, both the winner and first runner-up's names were printed in small type. Harvey took responsibility and called it a "horrible mistake.”

When you make a mistake (and you will) take ownership as opposed to seeking to lay blame elsewhere.


Don‘t stress over being less than perfect. You’re in good company.

Remember to strive for excellence, not perfection. It‘s a much more realistic pursuit.

Image credits: Pixabay.com

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Veteran freelance writer, award-winning blogger, thought leader, herbal tea enthusiast. My mission is to entertain, engage and inform readers with articles that are interesting, enriching and diverse.

Chicago, IL

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