8 signs overthinking and perfectionism is holding you back in life

Do you find yourself stuck in a loop of endless thoughts, always striving for perfection but never feeling quite “good enough”? 

You’re not alone. Overthinking and perfectionism are two sides of the same coin that can keep us from truly living our lives to the fullest. 

The thing is, while you’re busy dissecting every choice or worrying about every detail, opportunities and joys are passing you by. 

I should know — I was the queen of both these toxic habits. And I can’t say I’ve eliminated them 100%, but my life is so much happier now that I’ve found a way to release their grip on me. 

Let’s dig into the signs that overthinking and perfectionism might be holding you back, and how you can break the cycle.

1) You can’t make decisions easily

Ever stood in the grocery aisle for what feels like an eternity, pondering which brand of pasta to buy? Or maybe you’ve spent hours crafting and recrafting a simple email. 

These are classic signs that decision-making is a heavy task for you, thanks to overthinking and perfectionism.

The problem here is that when you overanalyze every possibility, you become paralyzed, making it hard to move forward in any meaningful way. 

This indecisiveness can lead to missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential, as you’re too wrapped up in the “what ifs” to take action.

One way to overcome this hurdle is to set time limits for your decisions. For example, give yourself 10 minutes to decide on a restaurant for dinner, or a day to decide on which job offer to accept. 

Doing this forces you to prioritize your thoughts and make a choice, ultimately helping you become more decisive over time. 

Remember, not every decision is life-altering; it’s okay to trust your gut or leave things at “good enough” sometimes.

2) Procrastination is your go-to

Procrastination is often the side effect of overthinking and striving for perfection. You delay starting a project or task because you want everything to be just right. 

However, waiting for the “perfect” moment or conditions often means that nothing ever gets done — as I know from my own experience.

This procrastination habit eats away at your time and can leave you stressed, overwhelmed, and with a slew of unfinished tasks. 

The more you put things off, the more you find yourself stuck in a never-ending cycle of catch-up, which is draining emotionally and mentally.

To break this cycle, adopt the “two-minute rule”. If something takes less than two minutes, do it right away. For bigger tasks, break them into smaller, more manageable parts and tackle one piece at a time. 

This way, the enormity of the project doesn’t paralyze you, and you can celebrate small victories along the way. 

Setting a deadline can also be helpful; it creates a sense of urgency that can push you to take action.

3) You’re never fully satisfied

Ah, the elusive satisfaction that always seems just one achievement away. 

You finish a project, hit a milestone, or reach a personal goal, and instead of basking in the glory of your accomplishment, your mind races to what could have been better. Sound familiar? 

While it’s natural to aim for improvement, the inability to savor your victories can leave you feeling perpetually unfulfilled and drained. 

What’s more, this mindset can deter you from taking on new challenges; after all, why try if it’ll never be “good enough”?

Instead of zeroing in on what could have been, try flipping the script. When you accomplish something, make it a ritual to list out what went well and what you’re proud of. 

This practice not only uplifts your mood but also helps to rewire your brain to focus on positives, gradually allowing you to enjoy your accomplishments and build momentum for future endeavors. 

4) You avoid taking any risks

uncomfortable truths about success nobody wants to admit 8 signs overthinking and perfectionism is holding you back in life

Taking a risk feels like stepping off a cliff into the unknown, especially when you’re always aiming for that elusive perfection. 

But here’s the thing: Avoiding risks means also avoiding opportunities — opportunities for growth, for happiness, and even for discovering new dimensions of yourself. 

When you sidestep anything that feels uncertain, you create a safety bubble, but you’re also confined within its walls.

So what if, just for a moment, you entertained the idea of taking that risk? 

You don’t have to jump in headfirst. Start by dipping your toes in. Take a small risk that has minimal consequences but can offer some personal growth. 

Think of it as a low-stakes training ground for making more significant leaps in the future. 

Over time, you’ll become more comfortable with being uncomfortable, and that’s where real growth happens. 

5) You’re always stressing out

Stress and overthinking are like two peas in a pod. If your mind is constantly going over details, striving for perfection, it’s like you’re always in high gear. 

This perpetual state of stress doesn’t just put a damper on your mood; it can also affect your health and quality of life.

Now, I’m not saying snap your fingers and poof — stress be gone! That’s unrealistic. 

However, little pockets of calm can make a world of difference. Have you ever tried pausing during a hectic day to take a few deep breaths? 

It sounds trivial but trust me, your nervous system will thank you for it. 

By punctuating your day with small moments of relaxation, like deep breathing, a short walk, or even a quick chat with a friend, you chip away at that mountain of stress. Over time, these moments add up, making the mountain more like a manageable hill. 

And the beauty of it? You’ll find yourself more clear-headed, better equipped to tackle the complexities that come your way without the baggage of unnecessary stress.

6) Social comparisons drain you

Oh, the dreaded social media scroll, where everyone else’s life appears picture-perfect. 

Whether it’s someone’s job promotion, a friend’s exotic vacation, or a family member’s seemingly perfect relationship, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you’re falling behind

But take it from me, this habit of constantly measuring your life against others’ can be utterly exhausting. Not only does it drain your emotional energy, but it also blinds you to your own progress and achievements.

So instead of peering over the fence to see if the grass is greener, why not water your own lawn? Celebrate your wins, no matter how small. 

A promotion, a new skill learned, or even a day well-spent with loved ones — these are your victories, unique to your life’s journey. 

And if you find yourself slipping into the comparison game, gently bring your focus back by listing three things you’re grateful for. Gratitude has an incredible way of grounding us, helping us to see the value in our own lives. 

You’ll be surprised how this small mental shift can turn your focus from what you lack to what you have, enriching your life from the inside out.

7) You micromanage everything

When you’re gunning for perfection, it’s tempting to keep a tight grip on every little detail. You end up micromanaging not just your tasks, but maybe even the people around you. 

The thinking goes, “If I control every variable, nothing can go wrong, right?” 

But, ironically, this can backfire. You’ll find that people shy away from collaborating with you, and it might even stifle creativity and innovation. 

Consider letting go just a smidgen. Delegate a task to a colleague, or entrust a family member with a chore you’d normally do yourself. Feel the lightness that comes from releasing a bit of control. 

There’s a subtle magic in letting things unfold naturally. It not only frees up mental and emotional space for you but also allows others the opportunity to grow and shine. 

Plus, who knows? They might bring a perspective or skill to the table that you hadn’t considered, elevating the project to new heights.

8) You miss out on life’s simple pleasures

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Ah, simple joys! The aroma of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, a laughter-filled chat with an old friend, or the beauty of a sunset. 

These are the nuggets of happiness that life freely offers, yet when you’re engrossed in overthinking and perfecting every detail, they often go unnoticed. 

It’s like life is throwing you a party, and you’re too busy organizing the confetti to actually enjoy it.

Maybe the next time you’re out for a walk, allow yourself to truly feel the sun on your skin or listen to the leaves rustling in the wind. Get lost in a good book or spend some unstructured time with a loved one, with no agenda other than to be in the moment. 

Allowing yourself to revel in these everyday miracles can be a great antidote to the stress and strain of your quest for perfection. 

Each simple pleasure is a tiny reminder that perfection isn’t a prerequisite for happiness. In fact, it’s often the imperfections — the unplanned and the unexpected — that bring the greatest joy.

Finding freedom in letting go

Being stuck in a cycle of overthinking and perfectionism is like trying to sail a ship with an anchor down — you’re exerting so much effort but not truly getting anywhere. 

The beauty lies in lifting that anchor and allowing yourself to sail freely. 

Acknowledge the habits holding you back, make incremental changes, and embrace life’s unpredictability. 

The journey to a more fulfilling life isn’t about eliminating flaws; it’s about loosening the grip of perfection and welcoming each moment as it comes. 

Trust that you’re more than capable of navigating the ebbs and flows of life.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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