4 surprising signs of perfectionism

Many people have the idea that perfectionists are super organised, on it and always striving to do more and be better. In reality, perfectionism is not about being perfect, it’s about avoiding looking imperfect. Brené Brown defines it as a strategy to avoid shame (her book Daring Greatly is all about shame and vulnerability and I highly recommend it!).

I’ve always thought of myself as having some very perfectionistic tendencies and some traits that are the complete opposite. It wasn’t until I read more about it that I realised the behaviour I saw as the opposite was actually the most indicative of perfectionism. Do any of these resonate with you?


You love planning, making lists, researching and could spend hours doing it, but the lists never seem to reduce in size and the ideas don’t always materialise. You feel constantly busy and productive, but you’re not actually doing the important things that will get you where you want to be. You’re scared of making the wrong choices, so you put off making those choices.

All-or-nothing mindset

You often don’t pursue things on a long-term basis or set big, specific goals because you don’t want to face abandoning them or not achieving them. You often avoid putting maximum effort into things you’re not certain you’ll achieve. The logic being that if you don’t put effort in then you haven’t really tried, and if you haven’t really tried then you can’t say you’ve failed…


You’d do things differently if you weren’t worried about what other people would think.

Waiting for the right time

You don’t want to let yourself down by making the ‘wrong’ choice. It seems better to do nothing than risk doing the wrong thing.

For me, it wasn’t until I became aware of how much I was holding myself back that I could get honest with myself and work towards overcoming it. I felt that perpetual research and weighing up options was necessary and productive. One of my favourite things to do was future-planning, without actually taking concrete steps towards it. Now, I try to notice it and challenge myself to make different decisions.

Doing the things we’re putting off can mean sitting with uncomfortable emotions and coming up against the prospect of ‘failing’ or things not going as imagined. Overcoming this resistance is what personal development really is – you can’t become the person you’re meant to be if you never give yourself the opportunities to do so.

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