How Being a Perfectionist Can Destroy Your Self-Esteem

Getting out of the rabbit hole is possible

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“I’m a perfectionist! I was born that way!”

Does that phrase sound familiar to you? Do you know someone who uses that phrase as an excuse for their behavior?

Some people even take pride during their job interviews that their biggest weakness is being a perfectionist.

But for God’s sake, why are we so obsessed with being perfect? Nobody is perfect. So where does this personality trait come from? All I can say, from personal experience, is that being a perfectionist takes away a lot of the reasons why you can be happy in life.

Research shows that this tendency is increasing today. College students in the US and UK are predominantly taking the lead when it comes to this tendency.

Houston, we have a problem!

The Problem With Being a Perfectionist

Perfectionism is mostly about living with the all-or-nothing mentality. This means that either everything is going alright, or everything is going all wrong. To live like this puts a lot of mental strain on yourself.

The problem gets bigger when a perfectionist does not admit his problem. It’s not uncommon for perfectionists to see themselves as failures who can’t feel satisfied with their work. They often believe that they can’t be happy if they are not first place in everything.

They also ruthlessly compare themselves with others instead of comparing themselves with the person they were yesterday. This puts them off and brings their self-esteem down. Perfectionism deteriorates your mental health. That’s why being a perfectionist is often linked with anxiety, depression, and low self-worth.

How to Discover if You Are a Perfectionist

Imagine it’s your first time competing in a marathon.

You’ve worked really hard to build strength and stamina these past months. The day of the race is today. There are a lot of competitors. And after an arduous and breathtaking race, you end up getting 4th place.

Instead of being sad, you are happy. Why? Because you have over exceeded your expectations. You’ve even beaten many competitors who have worked hard for years. Nonetheless, you are happy you got 4th place because you know you’ve accomplished something great, which in turn makes you feel good.

Second scenario:

On the other hand, imagine the same story takes place but with a different ending. Opposite to the first story, you are now angry for getting 4th place. You are devastated, unhappy, and even disappointed in yourself.

You are so furious that you start questioning the legitimacy of whoever crossed the finish line first. Despite accomplishing something amazing, you can’t see nor enjoy your accomplishment and your hard work. Why? Because you have the “all-or-nothing” which is preventing you from being happy.

In order to discover if you are a perfectionist, you need to pay attention to certain warning signs.

Pay attention if:

  • You often believe you are not good enough despite working really hard
  • You set unreachable goals that you never accomplish
  • You have the all-or-nothing mentality
  • You are self-critical, self-conscious, and easily embarrassed

Other symptoms to be alert for:

  • Fear of failure paralyzes you and you never begin to work
  • Chronic procrastination
  • Very critical of other people

Some people have spent their entire lives not knowing they were perfectionists. Many have been miserable for the longest time not knowing why. They’ve just accepted their perfectionist’s habits as a normal part of their life, and for that reason they don’t question their behavior. Only until they see a therapist is that they discover how much perfectionism has robbed them of their lives.

How to Stop Being a Perfectionist

Stop being a perfectionist is not easy. It’s not easy especially if it’s deeply rooted in your life. But, if you really want to eliminate your perfectionist mindset, it’s important you create other healthy habits on top of it. One easy thing you can do today is to form a mental picture of the day you are not a perfectionist.

Acknowledge that shifting your mindset out of this will take a while. A big step to recovery is to understand that it’s not healthy to try and be first place in everything. Try not to hold on to unreasonable standards.

One way that we as humans obtain happiness is to set goals and reach them. But if we are not reaching them we will feel inept and miserable. That’s why we need to set reasonable goals that we now we can accomplish to build our self-esteem.

Also, remember that you are not perfect, and nobody is. So, quit trying to reach something that it’s not feasible.

When you set goals, ask yourself, am I realistic? And when you feel like things are getting out of control, ask yourself, is my perfectionist mentality taking over me again?

If you keep challenging your thoughts, you’ll begin to see how unreasonable they are. The goal is to make them look silly until they don’t make sense to you. You’ll eventually start feeling happier because you are gaining control of yourself instead of letting those unhealthy thought patterns control you.


Being a perfectionist can be a hard thing to get rid of. It is a big problem because it takes away a lot of happiness from your life. It’s not easy to get rid of this mindset but it’s totally possible if you start working on yourself which achievable goals today.

Try creating healthy habits on top of that mentality until it is under control. Remember that you are the one who sets the standard of what makes your happy. Don’t set the bar too high or you’ll end end feeling worse. Challenging enough is good enough.

Try to not let perfectionism overshadow the positive qualities you have. If you are focused on the negative side of things, you’ll never see your strengths.

If you feel like you’ve never accomplished anything in life, despite working really hard, take a step back to analyze your thoughts. Once you start controlling your thoughts, you’ll start feeling better.




Writing to teach and inspire | Open to do gigs | Contact me:

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Isaac Cardenas

Isaac Cardenas

Writing to teach and inspire | Open to do gigs | Contact me:

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