Letting go of perfectionism

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by Debra Dane on October 18, 2011

in Self-compassion & (Anti)-Perfectionism

If you look in a dictionary, “perfect” means:

  • conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type
  • excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement
  • exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose
  • entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings
  • accurate, exact, or correct in every detail*

If you look inside a typical perfectionist it means:

  • fear of failure
  • conflict
  • pressure
  • anxiety
  • expectations
Don't be so hard on yourself

Perfection is a flawed goal

The problem with perfection is that it is near impossible to achieve in almost every area of our lives. People with seemingly perfect homes still find fault with the layout, size, or decor. People with seemingly perfect lives still find many things to be dissatisfied with.

I am a recovering perfectionist – I battle with this every day.

One key factor in ending your battle with perfectionism is to accept your own imperfections and embrace life and yourself the way you are. Just as important though, is the ability to accept the imperfections of others. As hard as I have been on myself, I know and accept that I have set these expectations for others as well.

Every time I think someone “should” do something my way or to meet my standards I create all these expectations and pressure. It is a losing proposition all the way around.

It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not


Letting go of perfection

If you are a recovering perfectionist like me I would love for you to be kind to yourself and remind yourself that imperfection does not mean failure.

Don’t be so afraid of failing that you don’t try anything new.

Don’t immediately abandon difficult tasks for easier ones – work through that uncomfortable feeling and remove the pressure to get it 100% right.

Don’t fight with your spouse about how they choose to do things with your children. Their way can be different to yours and still be fine. A different lullaby, a different definition of dinner time, a different way to have fun.

Don’t think you have to do it all and do it well – ask for help, say no, accept that 80% is good enough.

letting go is freedom

Be open to other possibilities, viewpoints and ways of doing things and see how different you feel.


Be mindful of your expectations and realistic in your goals.


Be okay with imperfection and free up your energy and time for things that make you happy.


Trust yourself and know that you are good enough – just as you are!


Do you struggle with perfectionism? Are you too hard on yourself and others? Have you found ways to let yourself off the hook and overcome that drive to get it “right” all the time?


Find your simple,



* source: dictionary.com
image credits:
it’s not who you are that holds you back
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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Bridget October 18, 2011 at 8:46 pm

I too am a recovering perfectionist. I’m having a hard day today but I think it’s because I’m coming off my PND medication.
I’ve copied some text from a Joe Vitale book, Life’s Missing Instruction Manual and stuck it on the fridge. It pulls me back to centre when I read it: “…what seems perfect to you will seem flawed to someone else; what seems perfect to them will seem ridiculous to you. It’s all a matter of opinion. Do the best you can and let go. History will judge what you have done. And more often than not, it will forget and forgive all of us. Enjoy the journey. It is perfect as it is. All is well.”.


Debra Dane October 18, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Thank you for sharing those words here Bridget! so true!

Big hugs for the med wean – I hope you are taking it slow and taking care of yourself. So happy to have you here.
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Jodie Hebrard October 19, 2011 at 7:50 am

What a great read!

I have always set very high expectations of myself (and therefore others!) and it is a recipe for disaster and constant feelings of dissatisfaction. I’ll still learning to be kind to me and especially being a new mum, that things are not always going to go my way! (I guess that’s more of the control freak in me LOL!)

Thanks for sharing Deb!
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Debra Dane October 19, 2011 at 8:08 am

Thanks for sharing Jodie – “dissatisfaction” is another great word. It is like we are constantly dissatisfied with what is being presented / offered/ done.

That control freak stuff and perfectionism are tied hand in hand – being free from perfectionism means letting go of the control and trusting – trusting others to make fine decisions, trusting yourself that you have done (and are) “enough”, trusting in the universe that what is happening right now is what is meant to be even if it seems like crap!
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kirri October 19, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Hi Deb…what a great and timely post. I think you may have written it just for me…and my hubby :)

I suffer from perfection poison…its something I’m well aware of and work hard to keep under “control” (poor choice of words I know). I labour on for hours over things that I could do in one, have ridunkulously high standards etc.

What amuses me is that as a child and teen, perfection seemed like such a ‘good’ thing and the messages I received seemed to support that – being seen as ‘good’ with great grades and ‘perfect’ manners…but it all becomes a bit much to adhere to after a while doesn’t it?

Thats one of the reasons I am such an avid fan of meditation now…It makes me relax and feel more connected with just being and being adequate, instead of always trying to be perfect grrrr

Sorry for the extra long comment, but I just really resonate with this post!
PS – I notice that you live in Brissie and you’re a coach as well…we should catch up some time? I’ve only lived here for about 18 months and am always looking to support and meet like-minded peeps…let me know :)
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Debra Dane October 19, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Hi Kirri – thank you so much for commenting and I would love to meet up with you – send me an email and let me know where you are in Brisbane and what days are good for you.

I was exactly as you describe (as is my 8yo) and I am working on a follow up post about parenting “perfectionistic” kids. Yes – those traits can be “good”, but just like every trait there are flip sides. Even traits that at first glance seem “bad” can have positive aspects (I am thinking of my terrible trait of noticing flaws and faults which is exactly the trait that won me praise at work because it meant I always caught errors and saved companies money!)

I look forward to chatting with you in person! (and improving my meditation – this first week has been hit and miss)
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Laney @ Crash Test Mummy October 19, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I used to be a perfectionist. Having kids fixed that ;) I still struggle though and can be critical of myself and others.

Great post Deb, really well thought out and easy to take away the tips you’ve offered.
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Debra Dane October 19, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Thanks Laney – the struggle is the recovering part ; ) Good that you have changed somewhat though and can let some of it go…
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Amz@nurturing progress October 19, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Yeahaaa :) Thanks Deb….

This is me right now sharing my letting go process – It’s so hard when those expectations creep in all of the time. I like to have 100% control and therefore mandate that everyone else follow that standard. A fatal flaw, insecurity and of course judgement on myself and others.

Right now my focus is good enough will do and it doesn’t have to be perfect…Take my sewing, I’m letting it be with a few wonky stitches it doesn’t matter, all that matters is that is made by me for my boys…Although you have no idea how hard it was to suppress that inner voice taking over and saying do it again !!! It is a daily battle that needs constant supervision – the best part of it all is though, being aware of it because being by aware means that I am taking charge of the situation and trying to let things be just as they are :)

Thanks for reaffirming my path and journey…..and always nice to know a like minded soul…..bless your cotton socks :)
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Debra Dane October 19, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Amz – that is awesome about the sewing (go you!). I can relate more than you can imagine. I bought a machine 2+ years ago and have made 2 things in that time – so scared of ruining fabric or doing it wrong!

I have fabric (bought 5 months ago) to make a simple 1 panel short curtain for my home office which gets sauna hot by early afternoon. I have not done it yet but I vow to finally unpack my machine (been in this house for 8 1/2 months) and sew that curtain by Nov 1 – check on me if you can and see if i follow through. good enough is good enough!!
Debra Dane recently posted..The Art of Non-conformityMy Profile


Marie October 19, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Hi Deb

I have a Braun multi-quick that I’ve had for about 10 years. The best gadget in the work!! I love mine and dread the day it packs in.

I also wouldn’t be without my hand blender for baking (I have a philips one bought the same time as the multi-quick) and my set of melamine mixing bowls. I’ve been eyeing up those Ikea cheese graters for a while (my MIL swears by hers) so I might have to bite the bullet and invest.

I have to confess to also having more wooden spoons than you could shake a wooden spoon at ;) You can never have too many of those.

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Jen R October 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Oh, I can so relate to all of the above, luckily over the last couple of years and a change of medication Im finally learning to be nicer to myself about every little thing…Im also a Virgo :)
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Debra Dane October 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Thanks for sharing Jen – it IS an act of kindness to ourselves when we let it go isn’t it?
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Jane November 8, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Hi Deb

A brilliant post. I, too, am a Virgo and recovering perfectionist (what is it with those stars?!). Having 3 children in 3.5 years and PND has forced my hand.

I’m on that lifelong journey of adjusting my expectations (previously I would have called it ‘lowering’ them).

I posted about my struggle with perfectionism at http://www.lifeonplanetbaby.com/2011/04/my-life-as-perfectionist_02.html.

Now I’m off to subscribe to your blog!

J x
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Debra Dane November 8, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Wow – i just read your post and was nodding and laughing at the similarities – right from the part where you said how you spend ages finding the “right’ photo for a post!

I am not surprised to see you had PND as well – i truly believe the type A / perfectionism gene thing is a major risk factor. I will also subscribe to your blog and explore more when I have time. I had seen your gravatar/photo around but had not seen your blog. Thanks for commenting and connecting today.
Debra Dane recently posted..Helping our children let go of perfectionismMy Profile


Janelle December 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm

So true, it’s hard being a perfectionist! Learning what you can let go of is essential, some things just aren’t worth the fight you create for yourself. A really good post, thank you!
Visiting from DP blog carnival
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Elisa {With Grace & Eve} June 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

Thanks Deb! I’m really glad I read this post. Recovering perfectionist over here too x
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Emily June 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Read my mind. Thanks for linking back to this one x
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