Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality disposition characterized by an individual striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations. It is best conceptualized as a multidimensional characteristic that that there are both negative and positive aspects of perfectionism. In its maladaptive form, perfectionism drives individuals to attempt to achieve an unobtainable ideal, and their failure to meet their expectations causes psychological distress. Adaptive perfectionism can motivate people to reach their goals, and they derive pleasure from doing so. Perfectionists have also been described as those who strain compulsively and unceasingly toward unobtainable goals, and who measure their self-worth with their productivity and accomplishment. Pressuring oneself to achieve such unrealistic goals inevitably sets the individual up for disappointment. Perfectionists tend to be harsh critics of themselves when they do not meet the standards they set for themselves.
Before you delve further into strategies for letting go of perfectionism, it is important to remember the basics of what perfectionism is and is not; this can help you to stay motivated to make changes. Perfectionism differs from high achievement in one important way: where your focus lies. If you are striving for excellence, you can be happy about your achievements and learn from your mistakes.
Perfectionism is different in that the focus is less forgiving; perfectionists beat themselves up for anything that appears to be lacking, and this robs them of the satisfaction and pride that comes from all of the things that they do well. One of the most significant problems that perfectionists face is the fear that if they stop shooting for perfection, they will become low achievers and their goals will go by the wayside. Let this reassure you: perfectionists actually achieve less than those with healthier attitudes, because their focus on perfection robs them of motivation and can bring on procrastination and other self-defeating behaviors. Letting go of perfectionist attitudes can actually help you to excel more!