8 signs that toxic perfectionism is ruining your creativity & what you can do about it

Have you ever noticed that your perfectionism sometimes feels like an awful lot of work? And then, even though you’ve worked really hard—years of hard work, in fact—the Sisyphus’s boulder still tumbles back down.

Is it as though you never get a moment of relaxation or a lasting feeling of accomplishment? You live with an unrealistic expectation of always being good enough. The more you try, the more you fail and your disappointment builds until it becomes too overwhelming to contain?

This is called a toxic perfectionist complex, and it’s a trauma response to a painful experience of never being good enough.

Fear rooted in self-loathing and hopelessness that goes all the way back to our early childhood tells us: If I appear perfect, live perfect, and work perfect, I can escape or minimize criticism, ridicule, and mockery.

We become perfectionists because we are unhappy; bland, flawed, a letdown, a nuisance, and disliked by people who are supposed to be our biggest supporters.

Struggling with perfectionism is not easy. It often causes procrastination, poor work quality, and bad decision-making.

This article is a jumping point for further exploration of modern ideas about perfection. It addresses questions such as: What makes people so much more inclined towards perfectionism than others?

And what are the best techniques to use to overcome it?

8 signs that toxic perfectionism is ruining your creativity

1) You avoid (or) quit activities that don’t come easily to you

It happens. You abandon some of your daily routines, tasks, and activities because they make you feel like a constant, absolute failure. People are more vulnerable to self-sabotage when the thing they want to achieve doesn’t come easily to them.

It’s difficult to stay motivated in the face of challenges. If you find yourself in this situation, consider looking for the good in the challenge.

It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses. Keep coming back to them to make sure you are working on growing your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses.

Try to focus on the positive, and take advantage of distractions whenever possible. You don’t always have to win, but you might win if you try every day. Remember that perfectionism is nothing more than a shield we wear to keep ourselves from harm.

When, in reality, it only keeps us from being seen.

2) Small mistakes feel like huge failures

The sickness of perfectionism gestates in the fertile gap of worry about the little things. Sometimes, the insignificant make us feel that our life is doomed, and the mistakes that cost us the least bit of time are the most costly.

Failure is a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s an inescapable part of a perfectly valid long road to self-acceptance, love, and success because when you fail, you’ll know exactly what went wrong and how to fix it.

Look for the beauty even in your flaws when you’re dealing with chronic self-doubt and a critical inner voice scrutinizing every minor mistake. Refrain from skipping steps and giving up. Keep pushing yourself to learn new methods and ideas that will help you prevent unnecessary pain in the future.

It’s worth it to take a risk of creating something for the sake of enjoying yourself. Part of living a fulfilling life is being able to express yourself. Separate what you want to do from what you think others, such as the market, your advisers, or your peers, will want.

Keep in mind that you will probably NOT be able to make income or gain much in the way of recognition-at least, not right away.

While you may hear stories of those who have achieved rapid success, the majority of people have to struggle and reach their goals in little steps.

Creativity and expression are part of the human experience. More importantly, creativity is part of who YOU are. It’s a celebration of your identity. Take pride in that- making something is part of what makes you, you.

3) You minimize your accomplishments

pexels gratisography 2013 1 8 signs that toxic perfectionism is ruining your creativity & what you can do about it

Many people struggle to believe in themselves and enjoy their achievements. This is probably because we are continually told why we aren’t good enough by our society.

Social media edits out billions of regular lives and years of failure, rejection, and frustration, in order to feed us a daily curated selection of picture-perfect lifestyles of Instagram models, CEOs, and other celebrities.

It starts to appear as though ‘everyone’ is successful. Our accomplishments pale in comparison to the standard that first sparked our ambitions.

And so we find ourselves caught in the Perfectionist Trap, with a yearning for perfection but no mature or sufficient grasp of what it takes to achieve it and no ability to tolerate mediocrity.

Accepting our imperfections and building from there is the best way to reach excellence in any field. This includes all aspects of our lives from education, to careers, to startups.

What’s so terrible about lowering expectations, accepting mediocrity, and working to improve it in a high-pressure society, world of constant comparison, and never-ending rat race?

4) Any criticism (even constructive) feels hurtful

It’s a rare opinion that we’d like to hear. We’re all dealing with problems, and we want to know that we’re on the right path.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all live happily ever after without knowing the truth? What sort of peace would it be, though? The truth is unpleasant, as it should be. The discovery of the truth is the first step toward our liberation.

It’s worth it, even if it hurts at first.

We should welcome the truth of our flawed, unworthy selves, not because we are innately lazy, but because it is a sign that we have learned to speak more kindly to ourselves than those who could not accept us for who we were without a plethora of medals and rewards at the beginning.

5) You can’t accept compliments

We all want to be acknowledged for our best traits, yet receiving positive attention may be tough at times. Some people are born humble and shy away from taking compliments too eagerly. To them, believing that you deserve praise is highly narcissistic, and the only way to prevent feeling narcissistic is to acknowledge that you are not entitled.

If this resonates with you, I’m afraid I have some terrible news for you. This might possibly mean one of two things. You may be inherently introverted, or you may feel self-conscious about your work or talents.

So, shift your perspective. If you’re always telling yourself that you’re not good enough, that you’re unworthy of praise, that you’ve done too few things properly, it’s time to stop. It is asking too much of ourselves to be subjected to a referendum on our legitimacy every time we are acknowledged.

6) You’re a master procrastinator because perfectionism prevents you from ever starting

According to Piers Steel’s The Procrastination Equation, only approximately 36% of people start what they think they should start.

This leaves about 64 percent of people who won’t tackle tasks without too much “preparation” which means they’ll probably suffer more than their fair share of embarrassment if their task can’t be completed. Many of us could relate to the flawless idea that never leaves your head: the perfect magazine article or blog post that you’ll save and work on later.

But the reality is, without something being actually done, your idea will stay in your head and nothing will happen. Scheduling this perfectionist project for the future should be the last step. Keeping this in mind, maybe you should take the plunge and just start the task, even if you’re not ready for it.

I know it’s tough. We’ve all been there: we’ve got a problem, and we know we need to do something about it. Working on a big project, but stuck on a problem with too many steps/ large chunks of work? I have a solution that will help you.

Break it down into smaller goals with a predictable schedule. Start planning certain blocks of time for reading. Allow yourself 20 minutes before bedtime to read whatever you want—as long as it isn’t work-related. This will also help with your sleep. Remember that incrementalism is how everyone actually learns and enjoys things.

Incrementalism was coined by Robert L. Glass, a software programmer. It’s a process that involves making many little changes or additions to a project rather than a few major leaps. Instead of trying to completely transform a project at once, it’s best to gradually improve it by starting with the smallest change possible and working your way up.

Even master painters and writers would take forever to complete their masterworks. The vast majority of humankind cannot blaze through anything.

Don’t forget to move past the stage of decluttering into the stage of LIVING.

The taste grows faster than talent; you will always be able to see what needs to be improved before you have the ability to improve it.

Try restricting certain aspects of your activity.

And keep in mind. You are not alone.

7) You resent those who are content with their mediocrity

pexels yan krukov 7640765 1 8 signs that toxic perfectionism is ruining your creativity & what you can do about it

Some people are content with mediocrity. They are always satisfied with what they have, content with what they earn, who they are, what they have, what they do. Some people are not content with their mediocrity. They are always dissatisfied, never satisfied.

They are always looking for something more. And when they find it, they aren’t fulfilled. This isn’t how people are supposed to function. We aren’t naturally driven to work perfectly; instead, we are laboring under the false sense that we are awful people – a problem that cannot be solved by working harder. Working well is, of course, a noble goal.

However, when it becomes the cover of a secret goal to rectify a deficit or early love, it becomes a symptom of anxiety and depression. In this process we become unpleasant to be around, some of our co-workers and acquaintances might even want to avoid us altogether.

The inescapable dread and disdain we feel towards average people are confusing and illogical. It’s a disdain that makes everyone feel horrible. And that’s when we’ll realize that even through pure perfectionism, the imperfection of life still cannot be escaped.

Can you be perfect? If you’re still asking yourself this question after reading this, let me ask you one instead: are you content with being perfect?

8) You just can’t stop self-sabotaging your life

99.9 % of people operate based on unconscious core beliefs about themselves and others. Surface-level beliefs (the ones you’re aware of), are just like extensions or branches of core beliefs, whereas core beliefs are the roots that control what you do and think.

Core beliefs can be beneficial or harmful. “I’m worthless,” “I’m undeserving of love,” and “My life is pointless” are some common harmful fundamental beliefs. ‘Not good enough’ comes from past trauma.

These ideas got so ingrained in our minds over time that they became unconscious, similar to how we had to consciously think about a left foot and right foot when we first learned to walk.

All of these inner beliefs are referred to as “the shadow” in psychology.

There are a lot of options for uncovering these unconscious ideas, known as “shadow work” which is covered in Shadow Dance by David Richo. By understanding your shadow, you have the opportunity to change core beliefs.

Understand that when you form ideas as a youngster based on your experiences, your views are formed by your undeveloped self. It might be tough to accept flaws in ourselves and our surroundings, but with experience and patience, it becomes easier.

You must believe that you are deserving of wonderful things in your life, such as success, money, and good relationships.

Furthermore, you can try CBT (cognitive behavior therapy). It helps people with symptoms of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and procrastination.

Final thoughts

Wherever you are in your life, we can guarantee you this: your life will be better after you make the decision to chase your dreams and vision of a better future. It’s tough to start something new, but it’s worth it, and it’s what you must-do if you want to get to that better place you know is out there for you. That’s our only advice.

Start. Learn. Grow. Make your dreams come true. You deserve to have that better life.

We hope that, at the very least, this article helps you create something that has an impact. Can you do more than that? We hope so! Share the article, leave a comment, and spread the word!

Thanks for reading!

Picture of Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.