Author: Diana Freitas, Registered Social Worker, Psychotherapist

Perfectionism is like a double-edged sword. On one side, it pushes us to strive for excellence and achieve our goals. But on the other, it can create a constant state of stress, anxiety, and self-doubt. In my Bradford based therapy practice I often work with individuals who grapple with the overwhelming desire to be perfect or good enough. 

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is not just about striving for excellence or setting high standards. It’s an all-encompassing belief that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. This relentless pursuit of flawlessness can lead to a never-ending cycle of self-criticism, fear of failure, and dissatisfaction, ultimately affecting our mental health and well-being.

The Perfectionist's Dilemma

Imagine this: You set a goal for yourself, something important but challenging. As you work towards it, you start to notice every imperfection, every mistake. Instead of celebrating your progress, you get upset at yourself for not meeting your impossibly high standards. This cycle of setting unrealistic expectations, striving for perfection, and feeling disappointed when you fall short can be exhausting and demoralizing.

Practical Strategies for Overcoming Perfectionism

Set Realistic and Flexible Goals: Instead of aiming for perfection, which is often unattainable, set realistic and flexible goals that allow for mistakes and setbacks. Focus on progress rather than perfection, and celebrate each step forward, no matter how small.


Practice Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, especially when you make mistakes or fall short of your own expectations. Remember that perfection is not a requirement for self-worth or success.

a list of goals
woman on bed meditating

Challenge Perfectionist Thoughts: When you notice yourself engaging in perfectionist thinking, challenge those thoughts with evidence-based reasoning. Ask yourself if your expectations are realistic and if they align with your values.

Develop Healthy Coping Strategies: Instead of resorting to self-criticism or avoidance, develop healthy coping strategies for dealing with perfectionism. This might include mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to help you stay present and calm in the face of perfectionist thoughts.

Seek Support: Consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor who can help you explore the underlying causes of your perfectionism and develop strategies for overcoming it. You might also find support from friends, family members, or support groups who can offer empathy and understanding.


Practice Self-Acceptance: Accept that you are human and, like everyone else, you are imperfect. Embrace your flaws and mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than as failures.

CBT for Anxiety and Depression
rocks balanced on top of each other

Focus on the Process, Not Just the Outcome: Instead of solely focusing on the end result, focus on the process of learning and growing. Enjoy the journey and the lessons it brings, rather than fixating on achieving a perfect outcome.

Set Boundaries: Learn to set boundaries with yourself and others to prevent perfectionism from taking over your life. Allow yourself to say no to unrealistic demands and prioritize self-care and balance.

Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a sense of gratitude for what you have accomplished and the progress you have made, rather than focusing on what you haven’t achieved. This can help shift your perspective from perfectionism to appreciation.


Celebrate Imperfection: Embrace imperfection as a natural part of being human. Instead of striving for flawlessness, embrace your quirks and imperfections as unique aspects of who you are.

line up of apples and one is imperfect

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Perspective

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) offers a unique perspective on perfectionism. Instead of trying to eliminate or suppress our perfectionist tendencies, ACT encourages us to acknowledge them and learn to live with them without letting them control our lives.

In ACT, perfectionism is seen as a barrier to living a meaningful and fulfilling life. The goal is not to eliminate perfectionism entirely, but to change our relationship with it. Here’s how ACT can help:

Mindfulness: ACT emphasizes the importance of being present and aware of our thoughts and feelings without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, we can observe our perfectionist thoughts without getting caught up in them.

Values Clarification: ACT encourages us to clarify what truly matters to us in life. By identifying our values, we can focus on pursuing meaningful goals rather than perfectionistic ideals.

Defusion: Defusion techniques help us distance ourselves from our thoughts. Instead of believing that our thoughts are facts, we can see them as just thoughts, allowing us to respond to them more effectively.

Acceptance: Acceptance involves acknowledging our thoughts and feelings, even the uncomfortable ones, without trying to change them. By accepting our imperfections, we can free ourselves from the need to be perfect.

Commitment: Finally, ACT encourages us to commit to taking action towards our values, even in the face of imperfection. By focusing on what we can control and taking small, meaningful steps, we can move towards a more fulfilling life.


Perfectionism can be a heavy burden to carry, but it is possible to break free from its grip. By implementing self-compassion, mindfulness, and values-driven action, you can learn to live a more authentic, fulfilling life, free from the chains of perfectionism.

Mind Ease Therapy in Bradford

Ready to overcome perfectionism and reclaim your life? Learn more about how I can help you on your journey towards self-acceptance and fulfillment.