Negative Perfectionism vs. Positive Perfectionism2 min read

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Many people consider perfectionism a limiting belief that holds us back. But are there upsides to perfectionism? And can we integrate them without falling into the downsides?

Yes, and yes. I’m a perfectionist, and this has been more of a blessing than a curse for me. Perfectionism can be either negative or positive, depending on where it comes from, and how it shows up in our lives.

Negative perfectionism holds us back. It prevents us from getting started with goals, projects, and activities, because we have the unrealistic expectation that we should not fail. Unless we have the certainty that we will perform well, and from the very beginning, we don’t want to do it. It leads to procrastination, avoidance, and negative self-talk.

Positive perfectionism pushes us forward. It is our relentless commitment to excellence. It makes us push our boundaries and show up as our very best. It leads us to take action again and again, far past the point where most would have considered “good enough”.

Negative perfectionism kills your motivation; positive perfectionism fuels it.

Negative perfectionism sees failure as proof that “I’m not good enough”; positive perfectionism sees it as an opportunity to strengthen my commitment and determination.

Negative perfectionism comes out of fear—of rejection, failure, disappointment.

Positive perfectionism comes out of love—for the craft, the goal, the project.

Without negative perfectionism, you feel freer. Without positive perfectionism, you may feel lazy.

Exercise

What type of perfectionism do you have?

  • Is your perfectionism adding value to your life, and pushing you forward (positive)? Or is it holding you back (negative)?
  • Does it come out of love, or out of fear?

If you have negative perfectionism, you can work on it by shifting your mindset, taking Baby Steps forward, and doing the deep work of healing the underlying insecurities. Accept that your goal is a process, and redefine the “100%” that you aim for so that it is actually achievable.

If you have positive perfectionism, then let it continue to drive you, but remember to keep your balance. You can aim for perfection, as long as you know that you will never achieve it, and that the purpose of this unachievable goal is just to keep you moving forward in a positive journey, engaged and committed.

Going Deeper

If you struggle with negative perfectionism, try the guided meditations named Shift Your Self-Talk and Harmonize Your Parts in the Higher Mind app.

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