7 ways Perfectionism is really Self-sabotage

I am a true Virgo, with a Virgo rising and a Virgo setting and a moon that’s so fully nestled into Virgo’s perfect frigging bosom.

That’s probs not accurate as I’ve never looked into all of the aspects of my star-sign but you get the point. And what are Virgos infamous for? Perfectionism.

Now when you look around my house and see the dust from Olive’s paws strewn across the sofa cushions and the floordrobe that hasn’t got any separation between the stinky clothes and the freshly washed and clean clothes, you’d be hard pressed to accept me as a perfectionist.

And that’s exactly what I thought too.

When friends would tag me in Virgo memes I’d laugh along at the stereotypes of being a know-it-all, anti-authority and the total lack of patience and respond with a quick, ‘DAT ME’ before thinking, meh but I’m defo NOT organised or even very particular when it comes to myself or my surroundings.

But a convo with a fellow Virgo opened my eyes to the fact that perfectionism isn’t just about colour co-ordinating a capsule wardrobe or being on top of your diary but that it spills into so many other aspects of life too.

It was after this convo that I sat back and looked over all of the things I’d been telling myself I was useless at, couldn’t finish or got distracted from and realised that my perfectionism had actually fucked it all up.

So here are 7 ways perfectionism can actually be self-sabotage, with a little bit about how we (my fellow perfectionists) can turn it around.

perfectionism is self-sabotage
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash

one | Perfectionists’ standards are impossibly high

Sound familiar?

Whilst we might be sitting around a virtual hovel, we sure as hell notice when things are out of place elsewhere.

Or we may put people who we believe to be ‘perfect’ on pedestals, idolising them for the way they appear (and only appear) to have everything we believe to mean something.

The issue arises when perfectionists turn into nags and critics.

You didn’t put that where I wanted. Why did you do it like that? Why hasn’t this been completed in time?

But when, ‘where we wanted’ is the exact co-ordinates of a dining table to 3 decimal points and our time frame is humanly impossible – it kinda sucks for all involved.

What we can do differently

The running theme of this post is – to chill the fuck out – but in a way that’s more helpful…

We need to regularly remind ourselves to ‘spot the good’. If we catch ourselves about to criticise, we can instead stop, take a breath and wait for a positive – reframing our feedback to something kinder.

We can also reflect on what we’re asking (demanding) of others to see if it’s reasonable – and in a normal scope of reasonable – not a perfectionist’s version.

two | Perfectionists overthink EVERYTHING

Probably how much they overthink things too.

I remember planning a gallery wall for the spare bedroom once.

I scoured the internet for the exact prints I wanted – ones that really stood out to me.

Before stopping in my tracks and wondering if they needed a colour theme.

I switched out a few that didn’t ‘go’ with the rest, but then stopped to think that they should all be a similar style – retro and modern, feminine and bold – was it too all over the shop?

So then I decided to hit Pinterest.

And suddenly thought about whether to get all the same frames, all different or just slightly co-ordinated.

After probably about 5 hours of these mental gymnastics, I gave up, exhausted at the prospect of creating a gallery wall and deciding it wasn’t really going to work in that room any way.

This is just one example of how we overthink ourselves into a mess.

Ever sent a friend a text that didn’t come out quite how you wanted it to and then spent several hours replaying various different scenarios of their reaction in your head?

It’s such a waste of time and energy that could better be served doing the DAMN THING INSTEAD.

What we can do differently

Let’s do a little bit of work around trusting our gut some more.

Often enough we cycle back to the initial reaction, thought, feeling or idea anyway so why not practise going with that and seeing what happens?

After enough times of our gut reaction and action proving to be the right one, our brain will start to learn that it’s OK to trust the gut and go with the flow.

three | Perfectionists cannot relax

I mean, sure, 6 hours a day playing Animal Crossing SOUNDS relaxing, until you realise you’re obsessing over having your island totally in order and the thought of not digging one of those holes leaves you awake at night.

A perfectionists to do list is never done.

There are 24 hours in a day and a perfectionist could fill those with their never ending to do list.

Because nothing is ever enough.

I remember when I got married and I was dreaming up my wedding dress. I pored over Pinterest (recurring theme, maybe Pinterest is the problem?) and when it came to finally trying it on, I felt incredible and so excited for my ‘big day’.

But then when I got home I returned to Pinterest. Maybe the sleeves could’ve been a different style. Was that the colour I REALLY wanted? Could I ask the dressmaker to add another layer of tulle to get the exact amount of pouffe I needed?

It’s the same with work! I’m forever striving to make Grow & Glow the best community it can be so I’m constantly coming up with new idea after new idea when really, what we have at the foundations is bloody brilliant as it is!

But there I am, sat at my desk for 4 hours without blinking, making sodding graphics on Canva, AGAIN.

What can we do differently

Break. Shit. Down.

This is why I’ll forever extoll the brilliance that is Chloe Slade and her ‘Vibe and Flow’ journal.

Each day I fill out the 3 things I absolutely must achieve PLUS some of the ‘high vibe’ things I’d like to do too so that once those 3 things are done, I make sure to switch my attention to my ‘for fun’ things so I am NOT sat at my desk indefinitely.

It’s also good to have people around you that get it. A husband that’ll ask if you want to take a break and go for a walk or team mates who’ll tell you that you’ve done LOADS today and it’s OK to switch off for the evening.

four | Perfectionists are ‘black and white’ thinkers

People are either right or wrong. Good or bad. The work you do is either brilliant or crap. Your to do list is either overwhelming or complete.

The absolutes in which we often think can be super detrimental to our mental state because we don’t allow forgiveness or grace.

Perfectionists seek perfection and anything less than that is bloody useless.

And it. is. exhausting.

Relationships, careers, self-image and self-care can be TOUGH for perfectionists – they’ve been bloody difficult for me at times.

Y’know like there’s no point in having a bath, exfoliating and washing my hair tonight because I STILL won’t look like Jessica Simpson, circa Newlyweds, so what’s the point?

Or I will fail if I start this business venture because it won’t be the new Apple and I’ll not be the next Steve Jobs, so what’s the point?

This thinking is obviously linked to those bleeding high standards too!

What we can do differently

Here’s that ‘chill the fuck out’ term again but honestly…

We need to learn about grace.

It was the single biggest lesson I learned in 2019. To have grace.

To accept that if people have made mistakes, they’re not bad or wrong.

To give myself grace if I fuck up – it doesn’t mean I’m the worst person.

five | Perfectionists don’t like asking for help

Because…duh-duh-duhhhh people might realise we’re not actually perfect!

Seriously though, asking for help feels impossible. It feels like Audrina trying to make Justin Bobby commit – it’s a strain.

We believe that if we ask for help, we’re admitting we’re lesser than and that we don’t know it all.

This can lead to us being held back in lots of endeavours because we couldn’t figure out our next steps on our own but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to ask for guidance.

Ever gotten defensive when someone tries to help, and actually been quite rude, all because you didn’t want to admit you just didn’t know? SAME.

Or ever let the ball drop at home because you’re trying to juggle life, business, friendships, hobbies, drinking all that water and avoiding the coffee headaches but freak the FUCK out when the people around you ask what they can do to lighten your load or even try and voluntarily take things off your plate?

She says as she’s writing a blog post at 7pm, so engrossed that she knows it won’t be done for an hour but it’s her turn to cook dinner and clean up from lunch and snaps when her husband asks if he could just cook dinner…

What we can do differently

Seek out a mentor you trust.

Someone that you look up to but can feel vulnerable with. Someone you know isn’t judging you or doesn’t believe they’re better than you.

It could be a therapist, a coach, a pal or a colleague but identify them and then don’t be afraid to turn to them when you need it.

And also loosen up around your family. If they love you, they’re asking to help because they want to take care of you NOT because they’re judging you for your ineptitude so let your bloody husband cook dinner because he’s frigging better at pasta anyway.

six | Perfectionists procrastinate

Why start that hobby if you’re not going to be a pro at it? Why create content if it’s not going to go viral? Why put yourself out there if the reception will be tepid to warm at best?

We put off trying new things, going for goals, being creative or putting ourselves out there because we’re afraid of things not being perfect right away.

It’s not that we shy away from hard work. Or appreciate steps need to take place to achieve success, it’s just all of that sounds fucken EXHAUSTING.

What we can do differently

I learned about burning my bullshit from the wonderful Sophie French.

Sophie taught me that I have a huge evidence bank of all the things that have gone right for me and that every time I let a thought of stalling to do the next thing creep in, I should refer back to this evidence bank and ‘burn the bullshit’ around it not working out perfectly.

So get yourself an evidence bank and abundantly burn bullshit every time you want to procrastinate from doing something!

seven | Perfectionists are self-critical

We often think that ‘being hard on ourselves’ can increase productivity and motivation but let’s all be honest – we know it does the opposite.

But this is the ultimate way perfectionists self-sabotage and is linked to increased depression, anxiety and shame.

When we tell ourselves we’re lazy for not working 16 hours a day. Or that we’re never going to ‘make it’ if the 100 things on our to-do list doesn’t get done – this doesn’t motivate us to be better (more perfect) it does the opposite!

What we can do differently

Compassion. Grace.

Being kind to ourselves when we screw up. Taking a break when we feel things are going wrong. Understanding that we’re trying and that trying is bloody great.

All of these assurances help keep us motivated, happier and shame free – so shall we try THAT once in a while?

How do you, as a perfectionist, self-sabotage? Or what’s it like to NOT be a perfectionist? I can only imagine…

perfectionism is self-sabotage

Personal Development

watch now

Watch my FREE training on growing your Instagram!




grow & glow