Is It Ok To Be a Perfectionist?

Is it ok to be a perfectionist? - You may want to know once you identified with certain perfectionist traits I shared in my last blog – 7 Signs of a Perfectionist Leader.

My answer is, “let’s explore”.

Let me tell you about someone I worked with recently.

Case of a perfectionist leader

She was a senior leader doing extremely well for herself, but she would get highly anxious before her big presentations and couldn’t sleep the night before. During our inside-out coaching process, we discovered that she, as a child, was always compared to her older sister who would get all the love and attention. So, she grew up with the feeling that she had to keep achieving so that she could get people’s love and attention.

It is important to understand that whether or not this was the truth, but this was the feeling she had. That is key. The feeling of deprivation and constant comparison drove her to be an achiever and a perfectionist, but also left her struggling with anxiety and stress, impacting her mental and physical well-being. Once she understood her own feelings and mindset, we encouraged her to have fun. Perfectionists don’t have fun. Even if they have a hobby, they want it to be perfect. So, for her it was a big step to do things where it was ok for her not to be perfect. She slowly began to take pleasure in the process of making a painting or cooking a meal, just for the fun of it. As she started doing this, she understood that she could work from a place of happiness rather than for happiness.

Perfectionism has its roots in your childhood.

As you can see from the case study above, perfectionism stems from the deep-rooted feeling of unworthiness, need for attention, and fear of failure & shame, mostly coming from growing up years & some life-altering events.

It is emanating from you internalizing all the negative, biased, societal, and cultural voices telling you how imperfect and incomplete you are. And that striving for perfection (no failure, no mistakes) is your only hope.

This inner critic then bullies you into trying to live up to some unknown and impractical ideal of perfection. A state that is unattainable. And to top it all, the inner critic is never satisfied and keeps raising the bar. It is a war that one can’t win.

The consequences are grave, though.

Perfectionism can be a potential roadblock to your success as a professional and leader.

Firstly, it leads to delays in your deadlines, and secondly, it severely affects your leadership effectiveness.

Perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand.

A perfectionist leader is afraid of making mistakes. When the focus is on what may go wrong, it is usually hard for such a person to start or complete a project.

He creates conditions in his mind and keeps delaying those important tasks because he wants to have the best possible outcome.

Whenever something important comes up, there are strong critical voices in his mind that stop him from taking action.

“I need some peace and quiet to do this job’.

“Oh! I need to think this through”,

“I need time on this”,

“Let me do some more research”,

“It’s already too late to start this task. I will do it tomorrow morning”,

A perfectionist waits for the ideal moment that may never arrive.

And then, a perfectionist leader may pass on the pressure and anxiety to the team.

Perfectionism is a potential threat to leadership effectiveness

Think about it. Who wants to be led by a micro-managing, monitoring, anxious, hyper, perfectionist boss?

Such leaders may find it difficult to delegate. More often than not, if a team member comes to them with a problem, they will say, “Leave it with me. I will see to it”. Even if they delegate, they want their team to be perfect. So, they micro-manage and add too much pressure on their juniors.

They convey, implicitly, to their teams – "It’s NOT OK to make mistakes."

The team gets gripped with fear and does not come up with new ideas and solutions. What if, their ideas are not perfect? What if they get pulled up by the leader?

Consequently, a perfectionist leader may breed an environment of fear of failure, low initiative, no innovation, no risk-taking, and lack of trust. All of these are bad news for business performance!

Perfectionist leaders try to do it all, without seeking support and expect the same from their teams. Just leads to a fatigued and stressed-out team.

Perfectionism could be a subconscious behaviour, but once identified can be worked upon.

The remedy

If you can hear yourself say, “Oh God! I am a perfectionist”, it is the right time to address it.

Coaching can help even the most incorrigible perfectionist move toward becoming joyful leaders.

We, at, use inside-out approach to work at the root cause of your perfectionism.

  1. The first step is to take a compassionate view of yourself. Accept & love yourself. Think of how being a perfectionist is harsh on you. Be gentle on yourself.

  2. Stop criticising and judging yourself for mistakes. It is ok to make mistakes. Making mistakes is a part of our learning curve.

  3. Set realistic goals for yourself. Resist the pressure to do it all. Take only what is practical.

  4. Practice affirmations – “I love and approve of myself exactly the way I am”, “I am worthy and lovable” “It is ok to make mistakes”

  5. Do things just for the sake of fun and joy. Things that are free of evaluation and performance pressure.

Sing as if you are singing to yourself, water the plants, paint, dance, cook, play board games, go for a long-long walk. Enjoy the process, don’t worry about the outcome.

You alone can gift this freedom to yourself.

Did this article help you with your questions relating to perfectionism? If yes, please write to me. I will be happy to further assist you.

Do share this article with a colleague or friend who wants to hear this.


Yoshita Swarup Sharma:

Founder & CEO - A Brighter Life | ICF Certified Executive Coach | Leadership facilitator | NLP Practitioner| Inner Transformation Specialist

Yoshita Swarup Sharma, CEO & Co-Founder of A Brighter Life, is an internationally certified executive coach (PCC). For the last eleven years, she has coached several senior leaders and CXO across the variety of industries and organizations. Recently she was awarded as one of the most influential coaching leaders of India by the World HRD Congress. She's a leadership facilitator, advanced NLP Practitioner and a specialist on personal transformation. She writes her blog from her own experiences and reflections . She brings with her 23 years of overall work experience and has previously worked as a Marketing professional in corporates like Coca-Cola, Dabur and Ranbaxy She's also a Kathak student and co-founder of Subah, A Covid Widow support group

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