Back to top
Jessica Rohlfing Pryor, Ph.D., LCP
• November 01, 2018

Perfectionism is an illusion that can cause people to suffer. Unhealthy perfectionism includes the relentless pursuit of exceedingly high — if not impossible — goals, combined with significant distress around failing to meet these goals.

If you find yourself suffering from perfectionism, consider the following tips based on research and experience:

Paralyzed by what you have to accomplish?

Break down big goals into smaller, manageable pieces that you can execute one step at a time. Celebrate your achievement of each step.

Plagued by the critical voices in your head?

Counteract these messages by starting a positivity journal. Write five positive things about yourself every day.

Feeling overwhelmed?

Practice mindful breathing for three minutes. Focus your attention on breathing from your belly instead of your chest. Pay attention to the sounds and sensations of each breath over the three minutes.

Fed up with perfectionistic self-standards?

Experiment with your definition of success to help you learn that you’ll survive a less than perfect life.

Need encouragement?

Create a positive mantra to repeat to yourself during times you experience perfectionistic thoughts. For example, "I am enough. My best is enough. Fighting perfectionism is really hard."

Need support?

Break the silence! Reach out to a “P”! A Peer, a Parent, a Professor or a Professional therapist. You matter.

Jessica Rohlfing Pryor, Ph.D., LCP

Core Faculty, Counseling Program

Dr. Pryor is the Managing Associate Editor of the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy (Springer), and serves on the editorial board for Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development (Taylor & Francis).

References & Citations

Antony, M.M., & Swinson, R.P. (2009). When perfect isn't good enough: Strategies for coping with perfectionism. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you're supposed to be and embrace who you are. Minneapolis, MN: Hazelden.

Neff, K. (2011). Self-compassion: The proven power of being kind to yourself. New York: HarperCollins.