The thing they never tell you about perfectionism

Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) in Legally Blonde

The thing they never tell you about perfectionism is, it means you don’t trust people.

I am a recovering-perfectionist and something that always amuses (aggravates) me is the incorrect assumption that perfectionists are people who have everything perfect. I feel like the impression of a “perfectionist” is some sort of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde character with everything just so. No. It’s more about having horrendously high standards for yourself, a crippling fear of failure and, actually, that often means existing with a LOT of imperfection. Perfectionists don’t achieve perfection. They just expect it.

The perfectionists I know, including myself, are more likely to not-try. Subdue themselves and deflect. They’re not the showoffy virtue-signallers of those “perfect-life” people on PinFacetagram. They’re hard workers, who never quite come up to scratch on their own standards. They’re also very tired, because that is exhausting.

Another thing I realised recently, perfectionists don’t trust easily. As much as they are often letting themselves down, at least that’s a known quantity. Allowing others to let us down? Even more terrifying. Delegate? Fuggeddaboutit. Too risky.

And you can imagine what happens when you’re wound pretty tight already and you don’t let anyone else share the load. Or, those times when you do, and they don’t quite do it right (ie: the way you would do it) and then you blame yourself, of course, for even THINKING someone else could take some of the burden. Did I mention it was exhausting?

So, my point is… perhaps perfectionists need to learn more about how to trust. Of course it’s important for us to try to climb down from our own pedestals, as well. Even though we’re doing pretty bloody OK up here, and actually achieving a lot thank-you. But actually trusting others… asking for help, accepting that help. Dealing with the fact that people do stuff differently and that might be OK.

So, my challenge is for you perfectionists who wish to be less-so. Delegate something today! Properly, really. And then, here’s the kicker. Even if it fucks up, DO NOT TAKE THE BLAME YOURSELF. Throw them under the bus, if you have to. That’s all part of the fine art of delegation. Do it. Now.

Photo via

Writer, editor, poet, off-duty goth, mother, feminist, environmental worrier, etc. Blogging at