The Cult of Perfectionism: 5 steps to breakaway

As a professional in today’s fast-paced, modern world, you may be striving (and struggling) to be “perfect.” Nail that perfect presentation, report back perfect results, say every little thing right, and, god forbid, anything wrong. 

If this sounds familiar, you’re certainly not alone. In recent years – especially with the rise of social media – the pressure to be “perfect” has slowly crept into almost every other facet of life, i.e. how we look, speak and present ourselves. But here’s an inconvenient truth: perfectionism is a tool to mask insecurity, and insecurity can cause crippling anxiety that can hinder your creative output and success. 

So how do we combat this? Today’s world needs more beauty, more heart-first work, and love presented in so many different forms. In this day and age, you can’t wait until something is just so until you share it with the world. The world deserves to see what you can do and, of course, what you can create. Let’s take a look at how you can get out of your own way. 


Perfectionism works the opposite way you want it to 

Perfectionism often stems from insecurity, which can manifest into a gut-wrenching, physical pit in your stomach that never seems to go away, or a voice in your head telling you you’re not good enough. So if you struggle with perfectionism (and let’s be honest – all of us probably do to some degree), these intrusive thoughts are enough to make anyone second-guess themselves. 

When you’re so worried about your voice, teeth, hair, posture, or weight, there is only limited mental capacity for everything else you need to focus on to achieve your dreams. It’s the same with our work. If you’re too concerned with how others will perceive something, it can be debilitating and take the fun out of what you were once so passionate about. Trying to be perfect sets you up for failure right from the start because perfectionism doesn’t live in reality. 


How do we leave the cult of perfectionism? 

In today’s society, perfectionism may seem to have seeped into our genetic code. But, there are many helpful ways to change your thinking and combat your perfectionist thoughts. Here’s your step-by-step guide to finally break free.

Step 1. Recognize the signs of perfectionism  

First, take a step back and take a deep breath. The process will be much easier when you realize we’re all just human,  and we all have many faults and shortcomings. It’s ok to make mistakes, as long as we keep learning from them. 

Take a look at your habits. Do you have trouble meeting your own standards? Do you feel anxious or frustrated when trying to meet those standards? Do you get in your own way? Whether the answer is yes or partly yes, it’s not hard to see how perfectionism can hinder your day-to-day life. 

Step 2. Change your thinking 

Changing your thinking is key to breaking free of the perfectionist mindset. When you change your thinking, you can change your life. The brain is a powerful tool; you can train it with thoughtwork and develop new, positive thought patterns. 

Folks that struggle with perfectionism (and insecurity) are often so critical of themselves, so it’s important to replace your negative thoughts with more realistic and helpful statements. If you find yourself starting to spiral, you can start with these: 

    • Nobody is perfect 
    • Everyone makes mistakes
    • There are things outside of my control 
    • It’s ok if not everyone likes my ideas 
    • All I can do is my best

It may feel silly (and you may not even believe yourself at first), but it’s one of the most effective ways to be kinder to yourself. And guess what – all of these statements are true! 

Step 3: Change your behaviours 

Now, we want to caveat this section by saying that lowering your standards does not mean having no standards. It’s about setting realistic standards for yourself, your life and work, and setting yourself up for success in the process. 

Funny enough, another attribute that goes hand-in-hand with being a perfectionist is procrastination, which seems like quite the oxymoron. But sometimes, the idea of spending hours labouring over a task or trying to reach your “flow state” seems worse than actually doing it. Don’t get caught in this trap. Break larger tasks into more manageable bits, and practice setting time limits for projects to build confidence and save yourself from over-analyzing. 

You can also change what you practice. We’ve written about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness before, and this is the perfect opportunity to boost it again.

Step 4. Ask questions and seek guidance & support 

No one – and we mean absolutely no one – has all the answers. As a species, we’re not even sure why we were put on this strange little planet in the first place! That being said, do not be afraid to seek guidance and support and ask questions from trusted resources. 

If you’re unsure about something, ask a supportive friend or mentor (who does not have perfectionist tendencies) to take a look at your work and give you feedback along the way so you’re not agonizing forever about the end product. If you find you’re second-guessing yourself too often, be sure to seek guidance through therapy or counselling to help you break down your inner self-critic. Just know you’re not alone and that you don’t need to do it all on your own. 

Step 5. Just do it 

You have the power to let go a little and just do it. Put yourself out there, just as you are, and see what happens. When we get back to the basics, you’ll see we are wired to create and built to love.

We are also wired to leave an imprint of ourselves behind. From the pyramids to a painting, every one of us has an internal desire to create something that will be remembered for years to come. We can’t wait to see it – so get out of your own way! 


The bottom line 

Even if you don’t struggle with perfectionism, we hope you found this article helpful and found a few takeaways. And whenever you’re ready, our team is here to help you build whatever it is you’re passionate about, so you can make a lasting impact. 

*Carte Blanche Studio’s blog content is for informational purposes only and should not substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek the advice of your mental health professional or another qualified health provider if you have any questions or concerns. 


Learn more about Carte Blanche Studio

Carte Blanche Studio is Toronto’s leading creative agency. We’re passionate about helping businesses and individuals authentically express themselves to build a more connected future. Visit us online to learn more. 

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