How to deal with high standards and unrealistic expectations as a perfectionist

Hey soul-connected creative! I’m back today with another episode in the #perfectionistproblems series about all the different ways perfectionism has a negative effect on your life. Today’s topic? Having too high and unrealistic expectations, which is something every perfectionist struggles with.

Ready to take those expectations down a notch? Let’s do this.

  We're onto the 16th episode of the #perfectionistproblems series for soul-connected yet stressed-out creatives and recovering perfectionists.   Do you struggle with high standards and unrealistic expectations you have for yourself or for others?   Click through to learn all about the 4 questions you can ask to reality-check your expectations. Plus there's a FREE workbook!





Setting high expectations and having high standards doesn’t have to mean you’re a perfectionist. In fact, most successful people set very high standards for themselves. The punishing pursuit of perfection happens when you’re worried about mistakes… mistakes you fear you’ll be making when trying to make those high expectations happen.

Research has shown that high expectations can show up in three different ways.


Self-oriented perfectionism is a tendency to have standards for yourself that are unrealistically high and impossible to attain. These standards are self-imposed and tend to be associated with self-criticism and an inability to accept your own mistakes and faults. When self-oriented perfectionism is combined with other negative events in your life, it can lead to depression.


This type of perfectionism is a tendency to demand that others meet your unrealistically high standards. If this is you, you’re likely to be unable to delegate task to others for fear of being disappointed by a less-than-perfect performance. As a result, other-oriented perfectionists may have problems with excessive anger and difficulty maintaining relationships.


Socially prescribed perfectionism is a tendency to assume that others have expectations of you that are impossible to meet and that, to gain approval from others, these high standards must be met. Unlike self-oriented perfectionism, in which expectations are self-imposed, in this type of perfectionism the high standards are believed to be imposed by others. This can lead to feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, anger (at people who are perceived to have unrealistically high standards for you), depression (if high standards aren’t met), or social anxiety (the fear of being judged by other people).




Although having high standards is often helpful, perfectionism is about having standards that are so high that they actually interfere with your performance.

Most people have strong opinions about how they should perform and how things should be done. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you’re anything like me you aren’t very good at assessing the accuracy of your own beliefs about your standards of performance, because you assume that your beliefs are correct.

The other day, I was interviewed for a podcast. I was very nervous beforehand, feeling like I had to share everything I know about perfectionism in a way that was inspiring and … well… perfect. Oh irony! Now I realize I held myself to an impossible standard. My beliefs about what would be inspiring to fellow perfectionist was incorrect. All I had to do was share my story, which would have been inspiration enough.

I’m not going to tell you to lower your expectations, because that’s not always realistic. But what you can do is question and reality-check your beliefs and standards about how (well) things should be done (preferably beforehand, unlike my podcast interview story ;) This will help you get a more realistic view of the situation and, as a result, it’ll help you keep your perfectionism in check.


The first step is to question the excessiveness of the standard you’re imposing on yourself or onto others. Ask yourself whether this expectation you’re having can be met. Can this goal realistically be achieved?


Next, question the accuracy of your belief. Is it true that this standard must be met? In my podcast interview example, the standard I held myself to was not accurate.


Also, think about the costs and benefits of imposing the standard. Does it help you to have this belief or standard? In my case, the expectations I had before the podcast interview only made me nervous.


And finally, question the flexibility of your belief or standard. Are you able to adjust your standards and change your beliefs when necessary?


This week I challenge you the question one, just one, standard you’ve set for yourself. Is this standard excessive, accurate, helpful, and/or flexible? Or not? How much of your perfectionism is the result of that unrealistic standard? Then think of a new standard that’s less excessive and more accurate, helpful, and flexible.


Remind yourself that most of your beliefs and expectations are arbitrary and subjective, even though you probably feel like they’re true and based on facts.

Need more help with this and with overcoming your perfectionism? Click the button below and download your free 20+ page, step-by-step, perfectionism-busting workbook.


Okay superstar, I hope this post was helpful and, at the very least, thought-provoking. I’ll see you next week with the next episode in the #perfectionistproblems series.



Hi there! I’m Wendy, perfectionism coach and host of the #perfectionistproblems community for recovering perfectionists. I’m insanely passionate about helping you overcome your perfectionism, 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.