Why there's no such thing as 'good' perfectionism

Hey bud! I’m back on the blog today to share an unpopular opinion with you.

I’ve shared before about why being a perfectionist is a bad thing. Most people agree that perfectionism isn’t always helpful and that - if they’re really honest - it’s holding them back.

But… in talking with my community and my students I also see this question pop up from time to time: “Perfectionism can also be a good thing, right?!”.

The only truthful answer to this question is a big, fat NO.

Today I want to talk about the dangerous misconception that there’s such a thing as ‘good’ perfectionism.

Let’s talk.

There are people, even scientists, that argue that perfectionism can be a good thing and that perfectionism can be divided up into good perfectionism and bad perfectionism. I strongly, vehemently, passionately disagree with this. Click through to read about the dangerous misconception that there’s such a thing as ‘good’ perfectionism. Plus, there's a free perfectionism-busting workbook waiting for you!

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If you’re new to these parts (hi, welcome to The Gratefulist!) you might want to catch up with these two blog posts...

Everything you THINK perfectionism is, it's not true

5 reasons you’re a perfectionist (it’s not what you might think)

… before diving into this one. In these posts I set the record straight on what perfectionism is and I bust through quite a few myths about perfectionism. It’s enlightening, promise!

Okay, now that we have the recommended reading out of the way, let’s get to the heart of this post.

There are people, even scientists, that argue that perfectionism can be a good thing and that perfectionism can be divided up into good perfectionism and bad perfectionism.

They define ‘good perfectionism’ as having high standards and striving for excellence.

‘Bad perfectionism’ is defined as being insecure, feeling not good enough, and buckling under stress.

I strongly, vehemently, passionately disagree with this.


1. it perpetuates the myth that Perfectionism is a collection of personality traits

 

Personality traits like being type A, having high standards (AKA having an eye for quality), and being very organized.

This way of thinking is a myth for a reason. Think about it for a minute.

You don’t suddenly turn into a perfectionist once you start focusing on details and being all organized. Those things happen as a response to your perfectionism.

 

2. it assumes that people who are confident and competitive are ‘good’ perfectionists and people who have low self-esteem are ‘bad’ perfectionists

 

That is a very cynical way of thinking that hangs on the assumption that being part of the rat race is a good thing. (Hint: I don’t think it is.)

Plus, it falsely assumes that self-esteem is causally related to perfectionism, while in reality perfectionism leads to low self-esteem.

 

3. perfectionism and striving for excellence are not the same thing

 

They’re not even related in any way:

  • Healthy striving is internally motivated and perfectionism is externally motivated.

  • Striving for excellence means focusing on personal growth and healthy achievement: 'How can I improve?' or 'What are my goals?'. Perfectionism means focusing on the other and trying to win their approval: 'What will they think? Will they like me? Will they think my effort is good enough?'

 
 

Can you tell I’m passionate about this?

It makes me so mad that people are out there spreading false rumors and perpetuating these myths that keep you stuck in this vicious cycle of perfectionism with no way out.

They’re even trying to make you feel shame for being a ‘bad’ perfectionist!

Ugh. Just ugh.

Perfectionism is a coping mechanism that you use when you feel scared, insecure, uncertain, and/or not good enough. It’s an UNHEALTHY coping mechanism, which damages you physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

And here’s the thing… once you realize what perfectionism truly, honestly, REALLY is and you understand it, you can begin to change it. You can make different choices. You can begin to break that cycle. You can slowly unlearn that unhealthy coping mechanism and start building healthy habits instead.

YOU can make that change. I got your back! *fist bump*

Are you ready to take action and let go of your perfectionism? Make sure to download my FREE 10+ page, step-by-step, perfectionism-busting workbook. Just click the button below!

 

Hi there! I’m Wendy, founder of The Gratefulist and host of the #perfectionistproblems community for recovering perfectionists. I’m insanely passionate about helping you let go of your perfectionism. Let’s chat about the hard stuff - like dealing with comparison, people pleasing, your inner critic & starting a perfectionist detox - so that you can stop caring so much about what other people think and finally take on those dream projects that you've been putting off for so long.