Women, Perfectionism and the middle ground - Handling perfectionism effectively

Back then when I was a kid, I wished to be a perfectionist. I thought of it as one of those ideal traits a human can possess. 

Being called a perfectionist seemed like an immense success to me until the day I began to view it with a 180° spun perspective.

Or should I say until I began imbibing the essence of perfectionism in me and still failing to find success, enlightening experience, and contentment with my work? Because perfectionism(negative) and contentment run in a parallel universe.

You can't be content until you want your life to be perfect and expect 100%perfection in your work, life, or in whatsoever you have. 

Is perfectionism totally bad? 

To begin with, perfectionism isn't a bad thing altogether. It branches out into two categories

So perfectionism is still a good trait but when it goes overboard, when the art of perfection gets out of control it becomes toxic. So to say that perfectionism is a curse is simply absurd. You need some sort of perfectionism in the form of ethics and protocols to complete a job in its best form, if not the perfect form. 

But the problem lies with us, humans(especially and exceedingly, women) have pronounced perfectionism as a "nothing or all" strategy. 

Now why women are obsessed with perfectionism more than men is a topic we are going to discuss in a while, but first, let's get steer clear of what actually perfectionism is in its exact definition.

What actually is Perfectionism?

“Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person's striving for flawlessness and setting high-performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others' evaluations”

Source: Wikipedia.

The above definition covers both the positive and negative aspects of perfectionism. 

Striving for flawlessness and setting high-performance standards is an ethic every organization or an individual follows. 

But critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding other’s opinions are where the problem lies. 

Yes, it's important to analyze and critique your moves but going deep down this hole is….Dark! 

Also being very critical about what people might think is….scary?! Yeah. 

And now you are introduced to a new feeling associated with negative perfectionism. 


So now you can clearly see the toxicity of this concept right?


Why are women more perfectionists obsessed than men?

Now onto the fact that why women are more likely to be perfectionists

Well, the answer is again “Fear”. The urge we feel to PROVE our abilities to the world. Because according to us, unless and until we authenticate our abilities, we don’t deserve them and the world might not respect us.

This makes us that extra-perfectionist who blurs the line between striving hard and going mad.

But not everyone sees it or senses it. Chances are that people might not even know that they are turning into a perfectionist.

So what are the signs to look out for if you are suffering from the negative aspect of perfectionism? 

Well, here they are:

You hate experimenting

You are very much a comfort-zone loving person. Not that it’s bad but we all know one can’t accomplish greater heights without leaning to fly. 

Even if you manage to do then you are constantly scared of the results. You keep blaming yourself for this new step and you are never happy with the end results. 

You are an all or nothing person

Both in terms of work and in terms of resources/materials needed for the work.

In terms of work progression, You will disclose it only if you have completed it totally and PERFECTLY, otherwise, you won’t

In terms of resources, you will not even start the desired work, unless and until you have alllll the materials, all kins of stuff needed. Even if a single resource remains missing, then the work from your part won’t commence too.

You are a big-time procrastinator and an information-junkie

Ok! Even I am guilty of this, (of course! If I am writing on this topic then I might have experienced this right?)

Like I said, You won’t start unless you have gulped down every minuscule information about the desired topic. You will keep on delaying the task just because YOU THINK you are not ready. You still have to have a lot and learn a lot to start and rock. So that you won’t fail!

But we all know the truth and the truth is that we are never well versed on anything unless we start doing it.


You seek only positive criticism

Criticism is something that’s never purely positive. Otherwise, it should have been named as praise or appreciation. But strict perfectionists or should I spell maladaptive perfectionists don’t get this. They do seek people’s opinions on their work but are never for negative or constructive criticism. They hate that. But won’t also stop seeking validation and criticism. 

You find yourself inadequate

No matter how much appreciation you garner for your work and how much people like and support your work and give you credit, you neither give YOURSELF CREDIT nor fond your work great. You always find something to complain about your work and yourself. YOU just don’t trust your potential and talent. Does that ring a bell? Yeah! Guessed right. It’s also a sign of low self-confidence. Now you may realize how these serious issues are interlinked.

You rate people’s work on the scale of ‘perfect’ or ‘imperfect’

There’s no middle-ground for you, You either find a work that’s perfect(in your vocabulary) and get jealous of it and feel useless or you find something that’s imperfect and disastrous ( again, according to you). You never accept the phrase  ‘partially perfect’ or ‘partially imperfect’.

The infamous all or nothing concept.

You ignore health completely

Like I said, maladaptive perfectionists, are procrastinators too. 

you won’t start until you think they are ready and when you actually start, you don't stop until you are done completely and (perfectly of course!). 

And amidst all this craziness, there’s a fair chance of ignoring your well being altogether. Your eating habits change due to pressure, deadlines, and the stress of making your job perfect. This can affect your physical as well as mental health.

The main problem of being an overly strict(maladaptive type)perfectionist is that mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, frustration, and dissatisfaction stem from them.

Must read: 8 effective tips to handling anxiety better

These are some of the layman signs that indicate that you may be a negative type(maladaptive) perfectionist.

Even if you didn’t find yourself as a maladaptive perfectionist from the above signs, it’s good to know the causes so that you can prevent yourself from becoming one. 

SO the real cause of all this in this current generation is no doubt, 

SOCIAL MEDIA. Yes, Social media is the root cause for promoting OCD and maladaptive perfectionism.

Sure there are other causes like insecurities and fear of losing but given the era that we live, it’s not hard to compare our lives to that of a “seemingly perfect” person on Facebook and Instagram. 

Now here lies the fact that women are more affected by this maladaptive perfectionism syndrome than men because according to the stats, women are more likely to spend time on social media. 

And not only that but the way of response, the way we react to social media is entirely different from men. Yes, even men are affected by the scale of comparison and perfectionism and all that. But men are more of adaptive perfectionists than the other one.

They don't have lower self-esteem like women and they are not more prone to comparisons. 

This is the case that women are more perfectionists than men.

Now like I said earlier, perfectionism as a whole isn't a bad thing. 

Studies show that perfectionism if harnessed correctly can benefit you and enhance your skills and talents and boost your achievements

So there has to be a middle ground that lets us reap full potential from being a perfectionist and at the same time doesn't drive us insane.

Well, the answer is no hidden secret, it's being an adaptive(healthy) perfectionist.

How can you be that?

Stop feeling so low about yourself

It’s easier said than done but think like this, we weren't born with low self-esteem. We might have developed it in some stages of our lives. Maybe you picked it up from some childhood trauma, maybe you picked it up in your teenage, maybe the society played a role portraying women as helpless and not-so-worthy beings. 

So when you can pick up on something and it’s not in-born, why will it be so tough to raise your self-esteem and confidence. Obviously, when you feel confident you won’t find the need to prove yourself to the world which in turn will not push you to perceive perfectionism as a tool to improve your self-worth.

Must read: Why do you lack confidence and how to boost your self-confidence

break free from the mindset of perfectionism

Don’t compare yourself 

This is a destructive habit especially associated with women. 

Women who are discontent tend to compare everything, either consciously or subconsciously. Their lifestyle, their marriage, their upbringing abilities, their beauty, almost everything. 

Why do women feel discontent? Because they tend to be maladaptive perfectionists. Because when you constantly think that something is missing and there’s always something that needs to be perfect then contentment won't come to you.  

So the key is to stop comparing yourself to others because there can be somebody LIKE you, but NOT you.

You are different, your journey is different, your skill sets are different, then Why do you expect your lifestyle to be like someone?

Try learning new things

When you learn something new, of course, you are bound to make mistakes. Now when you make mistakes, instead of self chiding, have positive self-talk that you are doing your best and you will improve and excel and it doesn’t have to be perfect. When you do this consistently, you will notice that you are no longer striving for that 100% perfection in your work. 

Allowing yourself to experiment and fail but not give up and not push off the work to some other “perfect” day strikes three cords at a time. 

  • You learn new things, 

  • with time, you will notice that you are not so afraid of failures and 

  • you don’t give up so there’s a boost to your will power and your procrastination will eventually stop.

Make your social feed toxic free

Inspiration is good but when that inspiration pressurizes you more and inspires you less, then it’s time to stop the toxicity. Try to cut off the time you spend on social media and for the time you actually spend on social media, try to just view it as a source of learning something or mere entertainment and not as a race or competition. And obviously not as a source of comparison.

Bottom line

All I have to say is perfectionism is good, only if you harness its potential in the right way and not let that rule your mindset and your life.

Keep it as a slave, don’t let that become your master.



  1. This is such an important post because I feeling like I personally only acknowledged the positive aspects of perfectionism but didn't acknowledge all the ways that it was holding me back from allowing myself to make mistakes and to learn from them! Thank you so much for sharing!