A Coaching Power Tool Created by Ryan Schroeder
(Transformational Coach, UNITED STATES)
Perfectionism is rampant today…and it is in this competitive drive to establish a moral and intellectual superiority that making a mistake becomes so dangerous…If we can’t make peace with ourselves as we are, we will never be able to make peace with ourselves. Psychologist Rudolf Dreikursin 1957
Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations. In a culture that rewards self-sufficiency and independence, perfectionism is a natural bi-product. Left unchecked, perfectionism drives people to attempt to achieve an unattainable ideal. In the end, perfectionists derive pleasure from striving.
There have been identified three main components of perfectionism:self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed. Self-oriented perfectionism is an intrapersonal dimension characterized by a strong motivation to be perfect, setting and striving for unrealistic self-standards, focusing on flaws, and generalization of self-standards.
The psychological definition of a Perfectionists are those who strain compulsively and unceasingly toward unobtainable goals, and measure their self-worth by productivity and accomplishment. Pressuring oneself to achieve unrealistic goals inevitably sets the person up for disappointment. Perfectionists tend to be harsh critics of themselves when they fail to meet their standards.
Perfectionists have an all-or-nothing mindset that’s propelled by a crippling fear of failure. They also have what’s called conditional self-worth. They think ‘I am only a good person if I can achieve these things
explains Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love.
You can see how someone with that mindset could get to a dark place. 
Perfectionism has been linked to several negative health affects including depression and higher rates of suicide, anorexia, chronic or unexplained fatigue, and pain syndromes like fibromyalgia. The unrealistic amounts of stress perfectionists put on themselves also leads to other illnesses from heart disease to irritable bowel syndrome.
There is a distinction between perfectionism and excellence. Perfectionism is more than pushing yourself to do your best to achieve a goal; it’s a reflection of an inner self mired in anxiety. Thomas S. Greenspon, a psychologist and author of a paper on an “antidote to perfectionism, said.
Perfectionistic people typically believe that they can never be good enough, that mistakes are signs of personal flaws, and that the only route to acceptability as a person is to be perfect,
The one thing these people are decidedly not-perfect at, is self-compassion.
So what can be done in the battle against crippling perfectionism?
For perfectionistic people, ﬁnding inner peace is no small task. If we spend most of our lives regretting past mistakes and/or worrying about future ones, we will not be living in the present and, in a real sense, we will not be “living.” We will certainly not be at peace with ourselves.
Perfectionism can be viewed as an extreme focus on becoming to the exclusion of simply being.It arises when a feeling of personal acceptance is experienced as contingent on performance. The antidote to perfectionism, and the beginning of recovery from it, is the dawning awareness that mistakes are things that can be ﬁxed, that they are not signs of personal defect, and that one can be acceptable as a person even if improvements can be made. That kind of self-conﬁdence blooms in an environment of acceptance, which allows for the “courage to be imperfect” and the “freedom to be.”
How do you begin to cultivate self-compassion and create a shift away from the pain of perfectionism? Some starters…
Don’t say, “it doesn’t have to be perfect”
That is the worst thing you can say to a perfectionist. Instead, have your client create a list of their strengths or things they like about themselves. For example, if a perfectionist client has a meltdown over a work screw-up have them focus on what they are proud of at their work and what they have accomplished, rather than telling her to stop expecting perfection. This would be an example of appreciative inquiry.
Get rid of the word “should”
Perfectionists are obsessed with this word: “I should be the best!” Instead, help your client ask why should I be the best? This practice will help her shift perspectives about on upcoming social event and the outcome she wants to have instead of what she wants to avoid. This moves the goal of the party to having fun versus focusing on feelings of being judged and worrying about what she’s wearing.
Reminder: It’s not failure, it’s data
Perfectionists often see accomplishments as all or nothing. For perfectionists more prone to the “nothing” side of the spectrum, you can help them overcome their fear of failure by helping them pinpoint obstacles. They might say, “I tried going to the gym, but I never had time so I just can’t work out.” Alright, so if you know that’s not working, what can you learn from that? What alternatives are there to going to the gym that still fulfill the workout?No time for daily 90-minute yoga classes? It doesn’t have to be “perfect.” Try five minutes of mediation, a 10-minute walk, or taking some time to have fun.
Appendix: Perfection Quotes
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it. Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis. Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame. Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order. Anne Wilson Schaef
At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Michael Law
Perfectionism doesn’t believe in practice shots. It doesn’t believe in improvement. Perfectionism has never heard that anything worth doing is worth doing badly–and that if we allow ourselves to do something badly we might in time become quite good at it. Perfectionism measures our beginner’s work against the finished work of masters. Perfectionism thrives on comparison and competition. It doesn’t know how to say, “Good try,” or “Job well done.” The critic does not believe in creative glee–or any glee at all, for that matter. No, perfectionism is a serious matter. Julia Cameron, Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance
If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never sow anything and never reap anything. Ecclesiastes 11:4
Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never achieve it. Salvador Dali