Perfectionism could be undermining your success, happiness, and health. Rather than pushing you forward in life, it holds you back.

How perfectionism is holding you back

Perfectionism is driven by anxiety. It stems from a fear of failure, paired with unrealistically high standards — creating the mistaken belief that if you cannot do something perfectly, you are incompetent or a bad person.


A perfectionist does everything possible to avoid failure. This means perfectionism often leads to:
Avoiding anything challenging (therefore, not learning new things)
Squashing your own creativity for fear of your ideas not being “perfect”
Giving up on new skills or activities if you aren’t immediately good at them
Minimizing your accomplishments and successes
Beating yourself up for every tiny error and imperfection
Comparing yourself negatively to other people


That’s a lot of extra stress!


Perfectionism holds you back from taking an exciting risk, moving to a new city, applying for that new job, starting that business, or trying that new hobby.


But you can break free of perfectionism to get more done, reduce your stress, and feel more fulfilled.

Read below to find out how to combat the perfectionist habits that are holding you back

List the pros and cons of your perfectionist traits

It can be hard to let go of perfectionist traits that you’ve had for a long time, especially if deep down you believe they are helping you to push forward and achieve success.


Ask yourself: what evidence do you have that perfectionism actually helps you? Have you ever challenged that idea?


Make a pros and cons list. Write down the negative consequences of your perfectionist habits — what anxieties, stress, and other harmful effects do these habits cause? Holding a magnifying glass up to your perfectionist qualities can help you see how they are holding you back from getting things done, feeling healthy, and living a happy life.

Celebrate all your small wins

A common perfectionist trait is to focus on the negatives. You may be quick to highlight mistakes, errors, and imperfections in yourself (or in others). It’s a tough habit to break, but you can offset it with a new habit.


Start celebrating the small accomplishments in your day — from scheduling a doctor appointment to sending an email. Every time you catch yourself thinking of a critique or negative judgment, follow it up with three positive thoughts. This will help you form a new habit of positive thinking, which will reduce stress and refuel your energy during the day.

Celebrate your failures too!

Perfectionist traits come from a fear of failure, but if you aren’t willing to fail, you will never learn or grow. So, flip the script by celebrating your failures!


What do I mean by this? Making mistakes, hitting roadblocks, and getting things “wrong” are all part of learning and growing — every time you make a mistake, it’s actually a sign that you are making progress. In other words, it shows that you are succeeding at learning.


If you attend my yoga classes, you’ll hear me say that whenever you fall over while trying to balance in a difficult yoga pose, that is excellent! It means you are strengthening the muscles you need to keep your balance. Your body is continuously learning.


Rather than avoiding failure at all costs, run straight towards it: set a goal to fail at something each day. To do this, you’ll have to go beyond your comfort zone and try things you haven’t done before. Suddenly every small “failure” becomes an exciting sign that you are improving.

Go tiny with your goals

Perfectionism can drive you to set huge, unrealistic goals such as “overhaul my entire diet” or “start exercising for one hour everyday” or “build my new side hustle in three months.” Big goals with unrealistic standards can be self-sabotaging — leading you to exhaustion, burnout, and a feeling of despair when you don’t “succeed” as fast as you expected.


To overcome deep perfectionist habits, go tiny with your goals. Aim to eat one vegetarian meal per week, to exercise for 20 minutes each morning, or to create a single-page website for your side hustle. As you see your progress on these small, approachable goals, you’ll feel more motivated to keep going and build on them!

About the author: Alexa Hanshaw is a functional health and nutrition coach and founder of Alexa Hanshaw LLC, on a mission to empower her clients to become the CEO of their stress. Alexa combines her background in corporate America with her expertise in functional nutrition, fitness, yoga, breathwork, and meditation to inspire her clients to take back their freedom from stress. Through her signature ACE Your Stress and Slay & Namaste OnDemand Membership, she helps transform clients from exhausted and burnt out to calm, collected, and ready to tackle anything that comes their way. Alexa lives with her husband and fur-baby in North Carolina.