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Perfectionist Paralysis: What it is and how to break it

What if I told you that striving to achieve perfection is a sure way to bring about failure? A self-described perfectionist myself, I thought my mindset would positively impact my performance-- but now I see that my impossible standards have done nothing except fail me. This eureka moment occurred when I read The Feel Good Effect by Robin Conley Downs. Turns out, my perfectionism is the root of the self-doubt that causes me to procrastinate. While in a perfectionist mindset, I have a distorted view of myself in which my shortcomings were listlessly noted while my successes were ignored. This perception prevented me from trying which ultimately prevented my achievement. Through becoming mindful of the effects of a perfectionist mindset: I am now more resilient, motivated, and happy.

As I write this I am in my college dorm, focusing on how unremarkable these words are. In this insecure moment, I am vulnerable to perfectionism that haunts my psyche. My hair has knotted itself into a bun and I’m wearing sweatpants that haven’t been washed in… a good while.

When I envision my future (perfect) self I imagine her dressed in chic, dry cleaned attire. This aspirational woman has a great career, an adorable dog, and a thriving personal life. She cooks, cleans, and miraculously manages to tick off every task on her to-do list with ease. In realistic moments, I know that I will never become this woman. But in the midst of daydreams, I believe that I can become her. In fact, I am convinced that I would be here if the phrase “one day” left my vocabulary. Her elusive persona seems to be within arm's length yet I am paralyzed. My limbs are heavily possessed by procrastination as I face the list of tasks I must complete in a perfect manner. My thoughts race one another but none of them know where to even begin. Insecurity has hypnotized me to worship this idealized projection of self, this woman that the media has assisted me in constructing. In these moments, I believe I could catch her essence if only I were moving quick enough yet I remain stagnant-- unable to escape this episodic paralysis. This elusive woman floats through my mind like a ghost, shadowing my every meditative move with doubt. In reality: the inner criticism that torments my psyche will never magically morph me into all that I expect myself to be. This perfectionism plagues me in such a way that makes it hard to breathe. My flawed logic tells me that I’m not allowed to fail. If I’m not allowed to fail-- I’m not allowed to try.

Before writing this article, I hesitated because I didn’t know if I could do it perfectly. This debilitating self-doubt causes me to put off tasks that I could easily complete-- if I had the confidence to start. Perfectionist paralysis is a very real thing that can overpower our ability to complete self-assigned tasks. This article isn’t perfect. It’s far from perfect. In fact, my blinking cursor mocks me as I search my brain for a better word, and unnecessarily reconstruct this sentence in an arbitrarily better way. In trying to make this article perfect, I am preventing myself from embracing my voice as a writer. Every word is laced with a threatening sense of deliberation, each letter would wither away if it were exposed to the same chilling standard.

Let go of perfection. Be vulnerable. By giving into perfectionist paralysis, you are only preventing yourself from achieving greatness. If you have the confidence to let yourself fail the only thing that is inevitable is your success.


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