10 Signs You Might Be a Perfectionist

Karen Doll, Author
September 13, 2020

What is the difference between being a high achiever and a perfectionist? A high achiever feels energized and motivated by working toward their goals. In contrast, a perfectionist sets unreasonable or unattainable goals, constantly feeling they are “never enough.” The goal posts are constantly changing. This inner turmoil interferes with a person’s well-being, causing acute stress and anxiety. 


Here are some signs that you may be a perfectionist:

  1. You constantly feel dissatisfied with life. The constant feeling of striving for something that is beyond your reach can leave you exhausted and depleted.
  2. You are highly self-critical. Despite a win or a success, you focus on what could have been better, and fail to acknowledge or celebrate your successes. It is also difficult for you to receive constructive feedback.
  3. Your thinking is distorted – you see the world in black or white with no shades of grey. “I am bad because I had two snacks today.” “I’m a failure because I am two hours late on a project.”
  4. You constantly seek approval from others, relying on external validation. If you do not receive positive reinforcement from others, it can leave you feeling drained.
  5. You have low self-esteem even though you appear confident on the outside. This is because your self-worth is dependent on others.
  6. You procrastinate and tend to delay completing a project until the last minute because of your tendency to over-check so as to avoid the possibility of making any mistakes. You may also put off starting something until you feel you are adequately prepared and knowledgeable – which often is unnecessary for the task at hand.
  7. You frequently use the word “should.” Words have power and using language such as “should” is guilt-inducing. “I should have acted differently.” “I should have succeeded.” It is the implication that whatever you do is not enough.
  8. You avoid taking risks or trying new things so as to avoid the possibility of failure. The thought of failing is so anxiety-inducing that you seek to protect yourself at all costs.
  9. You have zero tolerance for mistakes. Your preoccupation with needing everything to be perfect means that you are hard on yourself and others when your expectations are not met.
  10. You neglect your health – possibly skipping meals or losing sleep – because of your fixation on achieving your goals.

Adjust Your Mindset

If you are experiencing distress related to perfectionism, seek the help of a mental health professional. Perfectionism is often associated with the need to be in control. In order to modify your behavior, you need to change your mindset. This means letting go of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations. It also involves letting go of the need to control the outcome of a situation.

There are cognitive re framing techniques that can be learned that will help you move toward a healthier state of mind, and ease your anxiety, self-esteem, and depression. Reducing your perfectionist tendencies will improve your quality of life and increase your confidence.

Karen Doll, Author

Karen Doll has been a Licensed Psychologist in the Twin Cities for 20 years, working in organizational consulting. She leverages her education in Clinical Psychology with her leadership assessment expertise in her practice. She is an executive coach focusing on helping people maximize their potential.