What is it?

Perfectionism is characterized by efforts to be flawless, setting unrealistic expectations, and being overly critical about yourself and others. Perfectionism is often focused on gaining the approval of others and the belief that if we can be perfect, we can avoid feelings of failure and shame.

What Symptoms Might You Notice?

  • All-or-Nothing thinking 
  • Spending an excessive amount of time rechecking work over and over
  • Demanding high-performance expectations for yourself and others
  • Only focusing on mistakes rather than accomplishments
  • Viewing anything less than perfect as a failure
  • Procrastination
  • Excessive worry
  • Low self-esteem and self-worth
  • Avoid taking on new tasks for fear of failing
  • Self-critical
  • High levels of stress

How Prevalent is Perfectionism?

According to research published by the American Psychological Association, perfectionism among today’s college students has increased by 33% compared to previous generations. Students face more competitive environments along with pressure to obtain a good education and career. Additionally, the use of social media platforms to display seemingly perfect images can reinforce this pressure to be perfect in comparison to peers.

Things you can do to help with perfectionism:

Practice Self-Compassion: We all have an inner critic, but it’s important to find ways to extend kindness to yourself. Consider what you might say to a good friend and how you can apply that to yourself. 

Set Boundaries: If you would normally spend countless hours or days checking and rechecking a paper or project before you felt it was “perfect,” set time limits for yourself, stick to that goal, and move on.

Start a Gratitude Journal: Regularly writing down the good things happening in your life can help you develop a more positive mindset, help you appreciate even the smallest accomplishments, and remind yourself of all the positive things happening in your life to increase your overall well-being.

Focus on Your Strengths: Make a list of the positive characteristics that you value about yourself that have nothing to do with how you perform on a task such as kindness or being a good friend. Remind yourself of these strengths and that you are more than just a grade or GPA.

Challenge Your All-or-Nothing Thinking: Remind yourself that we all make mistakes and one set-back does not negate all the progress you’ve already made and will continue to make toward a goal. 

Make Time for Self-Care: It’s important to take care of yourself, which includes taking breaks, getting a good night’s sleep, and scheduling in time for fun activities that will help you feel refreshed and motivated. 

Apps that help:

  • Gratitude: A personal journal app where you can write about things you are grateful for and instill more positivity in your life. 
  • Trello:  If your list of to-dos leads to feeling overwhelmed, this app can help you plan out your projects and tasks to combat procrastination 
  • Mindshift: This app includes coping strategies for dealing with anxiety as well as specific tools to tackle perfectionism.

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Page last modified January 13, 2021