How to Reduce Stress Part 8: Don’t Try To Be Perfect!

Do you try to live in the Town of Perfection?
I would like to start this article off with a copy of a post done by a young lady that wrote about being a perfectionist and the affect on her life.  Now before you read this, be assured this is not out of the norm.  This past year I was a part of a forum on stress at a local high school, and just the idea suggested by the panel that it was OK to be less than perfect in all aspects of your life, and that you would still get into a good college, was met with an uproar that was just as if we suggested that the students Facebook accounts should be discontinued forever.


Here is the link to the transcript of  Inside the Mind of a Teenage Perfectionist

The results of demanding perfection of yourself in your academic, sports, social, societal life is damaging to the mind, body and spirit.  These affects may have life-long consequences.  Here is some of what we see when we demand perfection:

Low self-esteem, Depression, Anxiety (performance, test, social),  Health problems (ulcers, migraines, etc), Strained relationships, Loneliness, Frustration, Anger, Eating Disorders and Body Image Issues, Worry, Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors, Substance Abuse

Trying to be perfect is exhausting.  It is a challenge that will never be, well ‘perfected’.   In the words of John Wooden,  “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”  (In case you are not aware of Mr. Wooden, his college basketball team won 7 straight national championships and national championships in 10 out of 12 years with this philosophy.)

Don’t try to be perfect. Here are 5 Lessons 

  1. Start by being aware of when you think or act in perfectionist ways.  Being aware allows you the choice and is the first step to making corrections in your thinking and actions.
  2. Write out in a comparitive list format the good vs. bad costs of the perfectionist attitude or actions.  Be careful to count in the inter-personal relationship issues.  Remember success is not about being perfect. Demanding perfection is our own self talk that we are not good enough.  Would you talk to a friend like that?
  3. Think in a positive manner.  Many times perfectionist are more than willing to find what is wrong with themselves, their work or their situation.  If we find that we have that half empty cup syndrome, working on it by making a conscious effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones will help.  We can do this with a journal of gratitude and of things that we like about ourselves.  Over time you will see yourself looking at everything in a more positive manner.
  4. Though some in this world would have us believe that winning is everything, that we have to win the trophy, get first place, be better than anyone and everyone else,  the fact is that this is an all or nothing attitude that simply is not part of the real world.  Did you know that more than 99%  of CEO’s of large successful companies did not go to a top tier ‘Ivy League’ college?  Give yourself a break and look at this type of thought pattern and be willing to challenge it for the sake of your happiness.
  5. Focus on healthy, realistic goals that can be achieved with perseverance and effort.  Focus on goals that are challenging but still possible to achieve, then be willing to celebrate your successes when your goal has been reached.


Often times teens learn the perfectionist behavior from their parents.  Often too parents, while not saying they expect perfection deliver the message in others ways like comparing one child with another, either in or out of the family.  Expectations of others often times creates stress on us, if we allow it to be the important thing in our life.  If this has happened to you, find someone you can talk to about this, to get a good perspective on the situation.

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