How perfectionism limits you — and tips for shaking loose

Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

Are you the type who likes to dot your i’s and cross your t’s? Do you pride yourself on having been an A+ student, a high performer, a generous leader, a harmonious helper — all the things?

Welcome to the anti-paradise of perfectionism, where an earnest intention to “do good” and ego collide.

I’ve written before that I have nothing against egos, that they are (usually) functional and necessary. And egos are amoral (I mean without morals, not anti-moral) and limiting.

And flow states, genuine no-strings-attached generosity/contribution, and ultimately peak performance states all lie beyond the constraints of your ego. That is, beyond your perfectionistic need to avoid failure and confrontation with your shortcomings. Likewise perfectionism can make it hard to delegate, collaborate, and effectively/efficiently prioritize (not to mention to rest and enjoy yourself).

If you’re interested in breaking loose from what can be very entrenched patterns — for the sake of outcomes you want versus to “fix” yourself (which would be perfectionistic also, see how that works?) — here are some practices to take on. A big caveat that depending on the degree of freedom and expansion you’re seeking, these can be incredibly challenging to take on without ramping up of external supports. They’ll require new skill sets in how you regulate and relate to yourself. So if you’re the kind of perfectionist who also likes to be very self sufficient, you’ve been warned… :)

  1. Do hard things — meaning things that are hard for you to accomplish while also being a perfectionist about it. This can be unfamiliar challenges, genuinely lofty goals, playing with a lot of white space. Tip your personal or business KPIs further toward innovation, and a little less toward firm-and-fast achievement. Play a new game.

Like most things in life, the simplest things can also be the hardest, and the 3 practice areas probably are things you’ve heard before. Use your high performing gifts to create a concrete plan of attack — and be a little more willing to make shit up, change or wing it.

Want more work tips and inspiration? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at



Psychologist, success coach, believer in solid behavioral science and the power of tuning in.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Casey Onder, PhD

Psychologist, success coach, believer in solid behavioral science and the power of tuning in.