3 Steps to Letting Go of Perfectionism and Freeing Yourself from Anxiety


Sometimes when life feels out of control, we overcompensate by attempting to influence the things we think we can change. It’s as if we’ve gotten the message along the way that the more effort we put in, and the better we perform, the more accomplished we are. Yet, all this message solidifies is the idea that we need to push harder and do more in order to be people who are worthy of praise and love.

This often shows up as you spend time obsessing over every single detail of every single project before reluctantly calling it finished. Even though you know you could have spent several more hours making it just right. Despite being excited about the task you’ve accomplished, you aren’t able to celebrate or claim your success because you know the end product “isn’t quite right”.

This type of perfectionism starts out as a way for you to feel more powerful over your circumstances but quickly has the opposite effect as it sets unrealistic and unachievable expectations, which prevent you from truly being happy. When you put this intense pressure on yourself to make things “perfect” you can end up feeling worse about yourself and your situation than you did before you set out to control it. But, somehow, you end up in a cycle of pushing yourself at all costs and sacrificing your needs because you think that if you just attain whatever the next goal is, everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.

The end result of perfectionism, however, is not feeling more accomplished and lovable, but instead feeling more stressed out and anxious. Eventually, you realize that pushing hard is not actually going to get you to the finish line you’ve imagined for yourself. It’s actually only pushing the finish line further away.

Maybe for you, it looks something like this…

You finally got the promotion at work you’ve been striving for the entire past year. Your coworkers and friends are so happy for you and have no doubt that you will be successful in your new role. On the surface, you appreciate their congratulatory wishes, but you find it hard to really hear or accept their compliments.

Deep inside you wonder if you really are up to the task. You start thinking of all the new responsibilities coming your way and how much you will need to learn and master. You don’t believe in doing a half-ass job, and you don’t want to disappoint your supervisor or have her question whether she promoted the right person.

As you start to focus on all that could go wrong with your new position, you instantly start to brainstorm ways to ensure you get everything right. But soon you find yourself hyperventilating in the employee bathroom and unsure why you can’t seem to remember how you got there.

Eventually, as you continue to experience anxiety related to your perfectionistic drive, you wind up in a place where you begin sacrificing your needs to achieve goals. You stay up late to get work done and you work through lunch while quickly scarfing down a string cheese. All the while giving up self-care for the sake of saving face and meeting self-imposed expectations.

It may seem embarrassing to admit that achieving everything you’ve wanted has actually ruined your quality of life. But the truth is, many people struggle with perfectionism. And you’re definitely not the only one to define your self-worth by the benchmarks you reach or the goals you meet.

It’s undeniable perfectionism has had a negative impact on your well-being. And it’s keeping you back from enjoying life. However, if you can start making intentional effort to overcome perfectionism, you can find a sense of peace and happiness. When you let go of unrealistic expectations and standards you can feel calmer and create more happiness in your life.

Keep reading for three intentional strategies to battle perfectionism and the anxiety that comes with it…

Perfectionism Leads To Anxiety And Depression

The biggest downside to not overcoming your perfectionistic tendencies is that you will continue to feel anxious and stressed out. Continuing to strive for unrealistic standards ensures that you are always demanding more of yourself and having to give more effort and energy toward being perfect.

Perfectionism prevents you from tuning in to who you are at the core because rather than being able to be comfortable with your true self, you are constantly trying to live up to others’ expectations or the pressure you put on yourself. Which makes you feel more anxious about completing tasks or accomplishing things.

What’s more, perfectionism can make you feel especially uncertain and reluctant to try new things as you might worry about your potential or ability to come out of your comfort zone.

At the very least, you may struggle to find time to care for yourself and instead keep giving 150% for the sake of achieving more. This may lead you to feel resentful toward your job and relationships, as they are taking up so much of your time and energy.  And the result is constant disappointment in yourself as you strive to reach your unreachable expectations.

Release Yourself From Perfectionism To find Happiness

The anxiety you feel is just a surface level manifestation of your inner need to be perfect all the time. It is this deeper-rooted belief that is keeping you stuck in patterns that ensure you think, behave, and feel as if life will be terrible if you somehow do not do everything right.  As if you are not enough in any part of your life.  

While your anxiety might feel insurmountable, you can start to take quick action toward getting it under control as you address the perfectionistic tendencies underneath.

You have the potential to feel calmer, happier and less stressed about your job and life in general. And you also have the opportunity to even feel more comfortable putting your needs first and setting boundaries. You just need to start working on your need to be perfect from the inside out.

3 Strategies to Free Yourself from Perfectionism and The Anxiety That Comes From It

Yes, it’s true you may be feeling anxious right now, but by identifying the ways to cope that work best for you, you can start to embrace the idea of just doing your best.

The key to achieving a sense of calm and finding more happiness is to examine the beliefs you hold when it comes to being perfect and then challenge them.

Being intentional with your efforts will help you stop worrying about having to get everything right all the time. And when you learn to let go a bit, it will not be as difficult as you think to manage your anxiety and overcome your perfectionistic tendencies.

Take a look at these 3 strategies to see how you can reduce your anxiety.

1. Let go of unrealistic expectations

Holding on to the need to be perfect sets you up for failure. All it does is allow you to set unreachable standards in your mind and believe that you are only good enough if you somehow manage to make them happen.

It makes sense that you find little joy in the success you do achieve because you are always striving for more. To perform better, to achieve greater things. This lack of contentment prevents you from recognizing what is positive and exceptional about your life and holds you back in a place where you focus on what is wrong instead. But, rather than focus on these unrealistic expectations, try to remind yourself that there is no such thing as perfect.

To a perfectionist, this may sound impossible.  But even simply being open to this idea and taking little steps toward letting go of doing everything right, is the beginning of change and being free from anxiety.

Here at Postpartum Health and Harmony we often work with perfectionists who are struggling to find happiness in their lives. Through therapy, we help them feel free from over-analyzing the situations they have been through and come to accept that what they have offered is beautiful the way it is.

2. Live in the present moment

When you are caught up in perfectionism you may struggle with the way you feel about yourself. Your self-worth is directly tied to how capable you feel. And if perfectionism is holding you back, you can start to doubt how special and unique you really are. It is understandable then, that you don’t feel great about your work.

Together with our clients, we utilize mindfulness techniques to help them stay in the present moment. This helps them control their thoughts and keep them from wandering to negative places.

Staying in the present will help reduce your anxiety, as you will be able to truly see what an amazing job you have been doing without looking through the lens of future anticipation or past judgment. As you pay attention to your abilities in the here and now, you’ll be able to develop a sense of pride in yourself.

3. Put yourself first.

Often, what is at the root of perfectionism is an intense need to make other people happy. While there is absolutely something to prioritizing your relationships and being a good friend and partner, sacrificing yourself or your needs in order to make things perfect for someone else does you a disservice.

When you schedule a session with Postpartum Health and Harmony, we will explore your tendency to be a people pleaser and how it is keeping you stuck in a perfectionist spiral.

Being a perfectionist is usually rooted in fear. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of disappointing others. Or, the fear of failure. But the truth is that you are good enough. No one and nothing is perfect. So, rather than chasing some unattainable goal, try letting go of your need to do everything right. Instead, focus on doing the best you can and enjoy the moment.

If you are struggling with perfectionism and it keeps you from showing up the way you want in your life, join our email list where you can learn new strategies to manage your anxiety.