why Perfectionism is a dream-killer

Perfectionism can be such a dream killer.

I know because I struggle with it all the time.

Whether it’s in trying to turn a Thanksgiving dinner into a magical experience for my guests, or in creating valuable content for my email community, I can be a very black-or-white kind of a girl. Either it gets done “right” or doesn’t get done at all.

As you can probably guess, this isn’t always the best way to go.

I recently read that when it comes to working out, perfectionists will forgo exercising if they can’t get their hardcore workout in.

Forget about the benefits of a walk around the neighborhood—if a perfectionist can’t get to her barre class, she’ll just skip exercising all together. But when it comes to reaching a long term health goal, is this really the best solution?

Let’s get a little more personal.

Suppose I’m hosting a holiday event at my home (which I’ve been known to do). In my mind, what I REALLY want is to make a delicious meal so that my loved ones feel cared for.

But if I’m shut away in the kitchen giving all my TLC to the food, how loved-up will my guests feel? Am I creating a warm, welcoming environment by doing that? Not really.

Very recently, I had my website completely redone.

I was so excited for a fresh start, and dove in wholeheartedly with my designer.

Once the site went live, I went through it with a fine-toothed comb. I checked every link, read every word and made a list of what I’d like to change (ahem...perfect) before I announced its presence to the world.


Hold on a second. Wasn’t the whole point of hiring professionals so that I could take this project off my plate? Yes. Does the site look beautiful and paint a better picture of who I am than my previous one did? I think so.

So then what am I doing?!

Here’s what I’ve learned.

  • Recognize the downside of trying to get it perfect. What’s the ultimate goal you’re trying to reach? Is the extra time and effort you give to getting something just right going to make that much of a difference? Where else could you be spending this energy? And what would that create for you?

  • Find a balance. Let it be good enough. Then stop. Identify the things you really MUST do. Then give yourself a deadline by which to complete it and let the chips fall where they may.

  • Give yourself the grace of recognizing that everyone’s idea of perfect is different.  I’m not asking you to give up your standards. But consider that what you think is ideal, might rub someone else the wrong way. (Remember that painting that had you scratching your head the last time you visited an art museum? Yes, that one…)

  • What’s going on here? This is one of the biggies. If you devote hours, days or (gulp!) even MORE time on your task but never finish it, that project is keeping you stuck.

Let’s get real

What’s the deeper reason that you can’t wrap it up? What are you afraid will happen if it isn’t “perfect”?
- Are you worried about people’s reactions?
- What are you making it mean about you if you present it as-is?
- Are you investing all your time into this project to keep you from doing something you REALLY don’t want to do? (And why is that?)  

These are just a few thoughts.

To wrap things up, here’s a practice I use when my perfectionism is holding me back. When I start getting tripped up, I’ll circle back around and remember what I most want to accomplish and why. Before I move forward, I’ll consider whether doing something will help me reach my mission better or more quickly. If not, I’ll forget about it.

In doing this, I’m able to be more productive and release the heavy burden of having an endless to-do list. I feel more energized and light and I LOVE having more of that in my life!

Will you give it a try, too?

Denise Csaky