How Perfectionism Is Killing You and The Remedies To Stop It.

This weekend I was bit by a bug. Not by one of the normal bugs I find on my hike with my dog like mosquito’s or bees.

I was bit by an even nastier one called
“The Perfectionist Bug.” Before it took me down I remedied it fast.

In this post I share along with a panel of awesome women with you so you can free yourself from its painful sting.

Do you take pride in being a perfectionist?

Do you wear it like a badge of honor you wear on your sleeve? If you were asked how much you give to any one thing, you would proudly say that you give 1000% to everything you do.

I get it. Been there, done that and still have to catch myself when I get bit by the “Perfectionist Bug.”

When we are bit by this bug it causes us to overwork, give too much ending in burn out. We do this because we put our self-worth in outcomes. Other symptoms are that it paralyzes us and we stay exactly where we were, however we now feel worse.

All we need to do is give 100% that’s really enough but when we fold into the mix our self worth then we are in danger of never being satisfied with anything. Go for good enough and see how much better you feel.

Watch out for this bug because it likes to disguise itself in many other ways.

It looks like fear, not being ready, not knowing enough or even comparing ourselves to an older version of ourselves. It shows up outside as behavior and on the inside it hurts as we try to fix ourselves.

Tricky little bugger, don’t ya think? I recently read a great quote in Dwell Magazine by Hella Jongerius. “Perfectionism is Macho.” “And boring. I’d like to see the hand of the maker.”

I could not agree more. When we try to control an outcome and make it “perfect” it’s not organic or feminine. We squelch the hand of the divine and miss out discovering something special in a mistake.

Most of my mistakes actually ended up better than I intended and I was able to learn from them. Einstein got it, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has not tried something new.”

I’m going to break down the sneaky ways the perfectionist bug shows up. Feeling like you need some help from your outdated ways? Don’t sweat it you’ll get good gems you can use right now.

Fear for the perfectionist

You’re afraid to put your ideas into action, get started on your dream life or get out into the world and start dating. You say you are afraid but the truth is it’s because something is not perfect or right.

What if there is no right or wrong?

Suppose it’s perfect and you are perfect but you’re dealing with B.S.S. — belief system syndrome. It’s time to own that you are ready even if your ego is trying to protect you.

You can’t get hurt. My way to bust fear is to see it as: F*cking Exciting And Rewarding. What’s to not like about that?

REMEDY: What you can do is stop believing your thoughts and challenge your beliefs. Are you really afraid or is it you don’t feel it is good enough? For the next week hang out in this place feeling what is real for you then report back here and leave a comment letting me know how it went.

Not Being Ready for the Perfectionist

I’m not ready because _____________ . Fill in the blank. Excusitis my friend is rampant. Are we ever ready? We never think we are, then when we do it’s too late and we missed the train and beat the shit out of ourselves.

I want to know which is worse missing it or getting out there and learning how to swim?

We can get everything done and wait or we can get out there and work on it we go along. When I was working on my website I had to have certain things ready. But I wanted it to be PERFECT and the joke was on me.

When I surrendered and said we will get the main pages set then we can go back and work on the other stuff I felt so much better. We are always in process. We are always in evolution. We are always updating.

It never stops!

REMEDY: If this is you then check in with a trusted friend who BELIEVES in you. You can run whatever you are feeling is not ready by them. Then take the baby step and watch the next one show up.

Not Knowing Enough for the Perfectionist

I know this one. I wanted to know every last detail when I became a yoga teacher. I had to have all the “I’s” dotted and “T’s” crossed before I taught my first class. I remember like it was yesterday.

It was a New Year’s class and I went to take the class, then a fellow teacher suggested that I teach the overflow in the other room. You should have seen me. I was like a deer caught in head lights. What? I was not prepared and thought I did not know enough.

Guess what it was the best class ever and everyone loved it. I knew plenty and had to TRUST. You always know more than you think. Your real wisdom is in your body, your gut and your heart.

REMEDY: TRUST. When you feel you don’t know enough, turn to your heart and ask for the answer. Your body knows before you mind. When you are honest with yourself and own that you know more than you think you are in a good place to move forward. The key is to do what you are good at and Google the rest.

Comparing Yourself to a Past Version of Yourself

This one is Kryptonite and will pull you down. I hear this all the time. When I was younger I could do this or that perfectly. Before this happened I had the best life now I don’t know enough. (See how it plays out.)

Your past version led you to this version. Getting caught in that circle will stop you in your tracks. If you are out of practice then you get to choose to have fun relearning or releasing having to know.

You are in charge here not your past.

REMEDY: When you start taking that walk down memory lane to compare yourself to a past version of yourself, STOP it right away. Release the need to go there and see what you learned. Then, if you did learn some skills in something you did or a relationship make notes and apply to the next steps you are going to take.

You are not alone. I have many clients who say I cannot do _____________ because I am a perfectionist and we get rid of that fast. Now they can live free of perfectionism and create a life they love regardless of these old beliefs.

If you are waiting to be perfect, have the perfect life, partner, job, body, house then you are going to have to wait for a really long time. Or you can get an update in your beliefs and set up a 1:1 Clarity Session with me and get rid of the bug.

To show you that you are not alone and get some more wisdom around this topic I reached out to women just like you who decided to make peace with this part of themselves.

Have any comments or questions let us know below, we really love to have you in the conversation with us.

Meet an amazing panel of women who were happy to share their wisdom with you:

“I am continuously learning the lesson that our potential rests in our ability to step into the unknown and risk everything to be the person we are born to be. When I sway my expression even a bit to avoid ugliness I suffocate my beauty. The work of an artist is to allow life to flow and let the Legend unfold as the steps are taken. This requires Olympic level trust, commitment and willingness to look ridiculous.”

– Laura Hollick, Soul Artist and CEO of Soul Art Studio Inc — talk to Laura on Twitter

“Perfect is the enemy of progress, and even companies like Google eschew perfection in favor of progression when they launch new initiatives. When you look at Agile Design, a specific method for launching development projects, it really becomes clear that frequent finish lines are far more effective than long “pregnancies” that ultimately fail to “wow” customers because there hasn’t been sufficient testing and feedback. The mindset of perfect immediately makes everything disappointing. Approach with the idea of efficacy and curiosity; it inherently raises the bar and inspires better outcomes.”

– Amy Swift, Founder of SMARTY — talk to Amy on Twitter

“Perfectionism is a male paradigm that keeps us disempowered and oppresses our deeper, feminine nature. Perfectionism is your inner saboteur that tries to shout over the whisperings of your Authentic Self. Annie Lamott calls it KFKD radio. Change the channel, stop the self-abuse and attune to the whisperings that your Authentic Self is sending. Nature helps. You know yoga and meditation get you there. Answer this honestly: What do you most need right now to feel vital, in this moment? That question sends perfectionism on a hike.”

Sara Gottfried, MD — talk to Sara on Twitter

“Perfectionism is paralysis. In striving to be perfect, we put off (indefinitely) being our brilliant selves and sharing our gifts with the world in big and bold ways. Everyone has a Woohoo Within them that’s special, unique, and remarkable. When we give ourselves permission to be imperfect and share authentically, MAGIC happens. I’ll take magic over perfect any day!”

Lisa Steadman — talk to Twitter

“I can’t think of a more important conversation for women to be having. In my mind, and in my own personal experience, PERFECTIONISM IS A CONDITIONED AND CHRONIC DISEASE that is killing our women. It must be eradicated with as much vigilance as the diagnoses it brings about: Eating Disorders, Self-Injury, Depression, Addiction, Co-Dependency and even Domestic Violence. Young women are all too often being raised to think their currency is in their perfection. We must teach them, and remind ourselves, to celebrate the wisdom that comes only from lessons learned, risks taken, and imperfection. ”

– Karen Christensen, Founder of The Legacy Boutique — talk to Karen on Twitter

“Trying to get everything perfect before actually doing something is the fastest way to get a whole lot of nothing accomplished. The most powerful coaching I ever got from a mentor was being told to approach my aspirations with an attitude of “Ready, FIRE, aim!” And that approach has yielded miracles in my life. Stop worrying, planning, or wondering….get a little sloppy, go for it, and get moving. Take steps toward living your life fully now and make your dreams come true. Do it right now!”

Amy Ippoliti, Anusara Yoga Teacher — talk to Amy on Twitter

“Perfectionism is a bitch. The most fun and wildly exciting experiences and opportunities I’ve had in my life happened when I just let go, and lived in the moment with an ambitious recklessness. When you stop worrying, and trying to be perfect… magic happens. You become unstoppable, liquid, and magical. There is no room for extraordinary creation in perfectionism. Creation breaks the rules and barriers to expand, perfectionism holds things in place and holds them back from growing. Smash it and be free! ;)”
Nikki Jumper, Photographer — talk to Nikki on Twitter

“Perfectionism can be a bitch. Training for the Olympics I was infected with the perfectionism bug and didn’t even know it. Until I came to America and attempted suicide because I was super hard on myself …about everything. Lesson learned? Your soul is the master. Your personality is a servant trusted with the task to beautify and perfect your human adventure.  Bottom lline: no matter what imperfections you make, the truth about who you are is unchanged. Now go PLAY. :)”

– Olga Aura, I Am Fully Alive — talk to Olga on Twitter

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 3 years is that there’s never the perfect time to do anything…You just have to be perfectly clear about what you want and move in the direction…and share your experience with others along the way.  When you do that, you get to clear the path in front of you of all those fears that were holding you back. Suddenly, you’ve got enough space to navigate to a life you didn’t think was possible (but secretly dreamed was)!”

Anne Samoilov — talk to Anne on Twitter

Remember, you’re part of the conversation. What is your take? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Hillary, I am a perfectionist too and it definitely slows me down and wears me down. I appreciate all of the strategies you mention above for tackling perfectionism as well as the fantastic panelist remarks.

    I have been loving our friends’ (Marie Forleo and Laura Roeder) mantra: “Start before you are ready!” In fact, I finally published my first blog post this week and I talk a little about that there. I recap a Seth Godin live event and share how it impacted me. I mention it here because publishing it was a strategy to counteract waiting for the perfect first-blog-post, the perfect topic, the perfect words, the perfect tie-in to my business, a blogging plan, etc. I just did it. I think, as you say, one of the key remedies for a perfectionist is taking action before you’re ready and before you know enough. When I do that I feel more alive. Thanks so much for these reminders and for the work you do in the world!

    My post is here if you want to see it:

  2. Perfectionism is my nemesis….it slows me down and drives me crazy – particularly in my business. It makes me frustrated and I feel further behind. I continuously fight this beast and use one of our friend’s quotes (Marie Forleo) – “EVERYTHING is figure-out-able”. This has helped me out A LOT to just move forward and realize I can change things later if they aren’t what I want. Thanks for a great article Hillary! xo

  3. Perfectionist is my longing. I rush into things, get it done and get out. I find that if I just slow down and take time to really appreciate things, then the perfection happens and I communicate much better. For me I am filled with so much information and inspiration I rush to share without taking the time to make sure it is laid out just so. I really appreciate your article, it helps me to see that my tendency to get things out, might be swinging to much to one side, but the other side is just as dangerous. My plan is to land in the middle, great and clear content without getting all wrapped up in my need to look good or get approval. Thanks for the great article Hillary!!

  4. Kathleen says:

    Thank you so much, Hillary, and all of you wise women for this valuable post on the disease of perfectionism… the #1 killer of the authentic genius in each one.

    It is particularly vital for me in this moment of creating my website and my brand and… and.. .and! Perhaps its because there is can be such an incongruency with the imagination where everything can be perfect and whole and the outer reality which requires so much time and effort to actualize that, and even then may not be the same. Perhaps we need to paint or dance the reality of the imagination and accept the beauty of the physical as it is. Perhaps in that meeting, heaven and earth are made one! hahaha! Gonna try it at least!

    May I repeat your wisdom often enough to really get it into my limbic system! Thank you WOMEN!!! for supporting me! I am so grateful!! xoxox

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      You are so welcome Kathleen! As an artist and living the way you do now boundaries may cause this. You are welcome. xo

  5. Kathleen says:

    I particularly appreciate exposing fears as a ploy of perfectionism. I LOVE that! very empowering.

  6. Kathleen says:

    Karen Christensen of the Legacy Boutique… Thank you so much for speaking out about this disease as it applies to our young women in how they view their bodies. Its horrible! and particularly because the image that is being held up is far far from whole perfection. We all must be vigilant on this front… in ourselves first!

  7. perfection is something i find in a cup of tea!

  8. I love the concept of being an “Optimalist” instead of a perfectionist. I do the best that I can that particular day and always keep moving forward. Some days I might make huge strides towards my vision, and some days babysteps. Learning to go easy on myself is key. And a huge lesson — when I focus on my own God-given talents and strengths, even if I only feel like working at 80%, it’s most people’s 110%!

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Awesome Racheal! Love the optmalist vs. perfectionist. Your 100% is yours so everyday it will look different. I get you. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  9. YES, Hillary! Perfectionism only delivers a hard dose of struggle. It will never lift you up to be the divine work-in -progress that EVERYONE already is. It misleads us to believe we should be different, better, or basically anything than what we already are. And the funniest part of the whole thing is we all have the same conversation going on in our heads! Take away the perfectionism and allow true beauty…raw, vulnerable, real… let it shine! Aums sister… Kerry

  10. Way to go Hillary! So honored to be a part of the blog this post. This one had a lot of meaning for me. Such a juicy topic! Big hugs of love and hope to see you soon too.

  11. I believe that perfection shows up naturally, when and where it is supposed to. Every. Single. Time. Without force.

    Striving for excellence & perfection is a energy sucker. I LOVE that you addressed this subject and are helping women release the pressure from perfectionism.

    It’s taken me practice to do things well (or even half-assed), without crossing into the perfectionism trap. And it is good enough!

    Racheal, your statement that your 80% is most people’s 110% was very eye opening. Thanks for sharing that!

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Thanks so much Melody! We all have to see we are there and that perfect needs a new definition. 🙂

  12. This article is wonderful! Thank you! Perfectionism was a key to my burning out 5 times. What I learned is that there is a real difference between being “perfect” and being “excellent.” With perfection there is no room to grow, you hit the ceiling in all directions because – it’s perfect! With excellence you can grow and grow in all directions as you fine tune each level. You can move forward, backwards and sideways doing your best and learning what works and doesn’t. Excellence gives you endless layers of flexibility and allows you to discover and grow as it compels you to do your best. Perfection causes you to strive for what you truly don’t want – the end of the road.

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Thank you Terry – burn out 5X wow! Love excellent it comes from the truest of ourselves. Awesome add. 🙂

  13. Dear Hilliary,
    Perfectionism will drive you immediately into insanity. You see it’s always an unattainable goal, because there is no ceiling to it. Once you think you are there, then the ego says, “Well, you could have done this different, better, etc.” getting all the mind chatter buzzing again. And trying to arrive at perfectionism requires some sort of expectation! Who’s setting that expectation, you? the mind? and how many people know what the expectation is? Perfection to me is just being…..acting from a place of unconditional love in everything that you do whether in business or personal, heart wide open living fully self expressed and with JOY……be your best self and let your essence, that very part of you that needs to sing out loud be your guide. You can’t get it wrong.

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Love this Maureen — Perfectionism will drive you immediately into insanity. I so agree. We can’t get it wrong and so nice to know that. 🙂

  14. Ah, perfectionism. This is something that I keep working on. It is such a bitch at times! I tend to over think my decisions which keep me stuck, hence, I procrastinate because I want to be perfect. This happens a lot when it comes to my biz. I begin to compare and feel, well, what the hell! ” I might as well stay here because I will never get to where she is.” I have been really working on this and getting in production mode when I have those thoughts. Great post and I LOVE, “we can’t get it wrong.” Yes!

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Yes Lisa I hear you. Overthinking is deadly and I totally get the procrastination thing. Glad you can honor your process and keep that in mind you can’t get it wrong. 🙂

  15. This really struck a chord for me. I’ve been involved with the life coach community (and LOA) for a couple years now and a lot of what i see is goal setting, aiming for what you think will ‘make’ you happy, ‘you have to be clear about what you want if the universe is gonna get it for you’ etc etc. And i personally got too tripped up on the details, on how whatever it is that i’m reaching for must be perfect else i’m not gonna try go for it. i think part of it (and this is totally my own fault) is that in the past i have gone all-out on ‘perfect’ goals and upon reaching them been unfulfilled, so there’s a hesitancy now to aim for things in case they’re not so perfect after all!

    i also have a case of ‘never being good enoughs’ even though i know on paper i’m smart, accomplished, and have personal traits to be proud of. i’d be interested to find out how you can make that internal click where you in your heart believe you are good enough rather than needing external validations or having to get more qualifications/accomplishments under yr belt!

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Sarah you bring up a good point with what will “make” you happy. Clarity is first and one must take action and release control. It will always end up or show up in a way that will look differently and would that be not perfect?

      As an answer to your question : i’d be interested to find out how you can make that internal click where you in your heart believe you are good enough rather than needing external validations or having to get more qualifications/accomplishments under yr belt!?”

      For me it does not ever go away as humans . the shift is that it does not drive the boat that is the switch and when you practice awareness on simple things like the breath to remind you that you are good enough it builds the muscle. Hope that helps.

      • @Hillary, such AWESOME words of wisdom and insight you gave for Sarah. You truly have such a gift for calling out the deeper questions and helping women reveal themselves. In my mind, this skill is innate and really can’t be learned. So, so grateful for YOUR work! xo

        @Sarah, I LOVE that you shared here after we connected about this via Twitter. It’s such an important struggle to talk about, as I think most women hit the wall of “never been good enoughs” as you wrote. And certainly many of us can relate to chasing down the perfect goal only to be unfulfilled when we’ve reached that accomplishment. For me, the internal shift comes from how I perceive that feeling that comes after I’ve reached a goal. Rather than look at it as perhaps ‘boredom’ or ’emptiness,’ I look at it as a healthy ‘anticipation’ and ‘enthusiasm’ for what’s around the corner in my growth. While I’m careful not to ‘rob the joy’ of having reached my goal by moving too swiftly ‘on to the next thing,’ I also try not to feel ‘badly’ when I discover there is more I want to do. That’s multi-passionate Art-preneurship and it’s a beautiful thing!

        @Hillary, what are your thoughts on when women achieve a goal and then maybe feel surprised by the restlessness that can follow? Would love your expert thoughts? xoxo

        • Hillary Rubin says:

          Karen in response to : @Hillary, what are your thoughts on when women achieve a goal and then maybe feel surprised by the restlessness that can follow? Would love your expert thoughts? — I don’t see it as restlessness it is the trick of having goals. when we achieve what we put out to do the aftermath may feel like a void. then it is followed by what’s next? this is where we have to really be in the process and enjoy the outcome for what it is. who it touches and be thankful for all the unseen support. — does that make sense? hope it helps. xo

  16. Sarah Louise says:

    Karen from the Legacy Boutique points out that “Young women … think their currency is in their perfection.” Whether it be perfect bodies, perfect answers in school or perfect (insert blank here) we are taught (and we teach!) that imperfections are a reflection of an imperfection in ourself. So few of us learn, really internalize, that learning, growing and being creative is as much a process as an attained goal. Ironically it’s in the “imperfections”, mistakes and idiosyncrasies of each process that I see people connecting the most.

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Sarah Louise I liked that Karen pointed that out too. As I shared when I make a “mistake” that breeds the ultimate perfection. 🙂

      • @Hillary, I absolutely loved that quote soooo much that I put it on my computer screen. YOU are now officially a post it. Ha, ha! xoxo

        P.S. @Sarah Louise thanks & loved your thoughts.

  17. Allowing ourselves to be imperfect is what keeps us human, expansive and seeking better ways and experiences. When I feel that perfection paralysis sneaking in, I remind myself that the times I’ve felt most alive, been most creative and experienced profound levels of growth were when I was anything but perfect! : )

  18. It has taken me years to shed my perfectionist persona and embrace the artist that my soul was born to be on this earth. As an artist, I have learned to accept what I call happy accidents, the oops’, uh oh’s lead to aha’s . No use crying over spilt milk/paint, right ?
    There is no such thing as perfect other than just be who you are, as everyone else is taken . Oscar Wilde

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Jackie I love how you called it your ‘perfectionist persona’ that is the work I do to help women rebirth themselves. Love that O. Wilde Quote too. Thanks for commenting. 🙂 Hillary

  19. Recovering perfectionist here, who also expected others to live up to those standards. Not a joyful way to live.

    I’ve always lived by “if you’re going to do something, do it right the first time.” I think I need to get over myself! That mindset is toxic (unless you’re a heart surgeon or doing my lasik procedure or something, then by all means — do it right the first time 🙂

  20. Cynthia Englett says:

    What a great article Hillary! I feel all of us suffer from this and it reminds me of a quote from Hannah Arendt “In order to go on living, one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism”

  21. Stephanie says:

    Love it.

  22. I love this post Hillary! Great information and advice shared. I’ve struggled with this myself and I’m happy to say I’ve gotten MUCH better in the past few months. xo

  23. Such a fantastic topic and I love that you’ve included the voice of so many other powerful women. It’s so powerful to know we aren’t alone…and that we collectively are embracing change. Seeking a new way. Turn the light on to end the darkness, right? Thanks for being such a bright light.

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Amber — thanks for stopping by. Yes light and dark is such an interesting dance… We need the dark to see the light and also have to release the obsessions with the dark. 🙂


  1. […] Because I made this choice, I’m excited about the results & can’t wait to share. (Coming soon!) I’m still little nervous and battling my inner perfectionist. […]

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