Why Unproductive is Another Word for Perfectionism?

Being a perfectionist might be considered a strength to many. But it was pointed out that perfectionism can hamper your productivity. In fact, some even think unproductive is another word for perfectionism. But why is perfectionism a weakness? Isn’t it a strength?

Though perfectionism may carry some benefits in professionals, it also hampers productivity and generates anxiety. But can you guess how perfectionism affects your productivity? Before discussing why we think perfectionism is the enemy of progress, let’s discuss what perfectionism is.

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is known as having traits that make life an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. Or, simply, we can say precision is the synonym for perfectionism. Those who have this trait have excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations. This type of personality accepts nothing shy of flawlessness.

Types of Perfectionism

Types of Perfectionism

There are 3 types of perfectionism that have been seen so far.

  • Self-oriented perfectionism: Here, self-oriented perfectionism was considered as attaching irrational importance to being perfect, having unrealistic expectations or thinking of oneself, and holding punitive self-evaluations.
  • Socially prescribed perfectionism: After self-oriented perfectionism, another type of perfectionism is socially prescribed perfectionism. In this case, a perfectionist believes that their social context is excessively demanding, other individuals think of them harshly, and they must be top-notch perfect for getting approval from others.
  • Other-oriented perfectionism: Lastly, here comes other-oriented perfectionism, where individuals have unrealistic standards of those around them and evaluate them critically.

Signs of Perfectionism

A male taking care of garden


After knowing the definition of perfectionism, do you want to know the sign of perfectionism? Well, here are some of the signs that Perfectionism can have:

  • Knee-high Self-Esteem
  • Over Defensiveness
  • Failure Fear
  • Focus only on outcomes or results
  • Having Unrealistic Settings
  • Highly Critical Thinking
  • Having All-or-Nothing Thinking

Causes of Perfectionism

Before discussing why unproductive is another word for perfectionism, let’s discuss the root cause of perfectionism.

  • Fear of failure or disapproval from others
  • Having mental conditions such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Reasons Why unproductive is another word for perfectionism?

According to the Oxford dictionary, perfectionism is “The fact of liking to do things perfectly and not being satisfied with anything less.”

Oftentimes perfectionism is regarded as a good thing in our society. People usually see the outcome and refuse to see the whole picture. When Apple, under Steve Jobs’s leadership, released its first iPhone, people only saw the success but didn’t realize the hardship that employees went through. And that’s where the problem arose with perfectionism. Most perfectionists don’t realize how impulsive they can act when things don’t go their way unless someone points it out. Let’s see what researchers say about perfectionism.

As we were researching this matter, we came across an article from Harvard Business Review called “The Pros and Cons of Perfectionism, According to Research.”

In short, it was found that although perfectionists are more motivated on the job and work longer hours, perfectionism is strongly and consistently related to plenty of “detrimental” work, such as higher levels of burnout, stress, workaholism, anxiety, and depression, which ultimately induce overall unproductivity.

Now, let’s look at some reasons why perfectionism is destroying your productivity.

Perfectionism May Result in Procrastination

Perfectionism and Procrastination bidirectional relationship

People who believe things must be done only when it’s perfect may end up procrastinating their work. It’s because they wait for the perfect moment to start their work. In reality, that perfect moment never comes, and you end up being unproductive.

Being a Perfectionist Can Impede Innovation

Being a Perfectionist Can Impede Innovation

Do you ever realize that you often kill your innovative ideas in the search for perfectionism? It may sound weird at first, but if you think carefully, you will notice that after spending tons of your valuable time brainstorming new ideas, you just cancel them. Simply because of your urge for perfection and your thinking that they aren’t perfect enough.

Perfectionism Can Get Extreme


Usually, a perfectionist never stops making changes and picking on details that continuously bother him. And if you are like this, you know how it feels too. After tons of adjustments on a small thing, you realize no one even noticed it. This way, you are wasting too much of your valuable time and energy and finish your day with less outcome.

Perfectionism Makes You Feel Worthless

A man astonished to see a tall and giant man

When you keep rejecting your own thoughts and ideas, thinking it’s not perfect enough, this ends up hindering your self-esteem and self-growth. And, once you get into the feeling of being worthless, all your creativity, ideas and productivity just vanish.

How To Overcome Perfectionism

From all these discussions, perfectionism can hamper your self-esteem as well as overall productivity. To avoid these, here are some ways you can overcome them.

Set Realistic Expectations

 Expectations words

First and foremost set realistic and achievable goals. Don’t push yourself too hard. You can ask others, like who you’re working with, what their expectations are from you. Then you will realize that although they have high expectations from you but not to that astronomical level that you’ve built up in your mind.

The 80-20 Rule

The 80-20 Rule

The second thing you can do to overcome perfectionism is to get to know the 80-20 rule, which was first coined by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist and sociologist. According to this rule, “80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes”. So, identify that crucial 20% and spend less time obsessed with the 80% that doesn’t matter.

Accept Imperfection

A man Accept his Imperfection and walk away

You have to accept that you are a human, and as a human being, you can make mistakes. It’s impossible to be perfect and finish everything all at once. There’s a saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” We must achieve the things we want little by little. When you accept imperfection, all the fears of failure vanish, which induces you to think positively. This way, you can focus on the positive things that matter most and finish your day by being more productive.


What is toxic perfectionism?

Toxic perfectionists allow their goals to be set by the outside world. They exaggerate perceived external standards, which creates extreme pressure and anxiety.

Is there any relation between perfectionism and anxiety?

Apparently Yes. Perfectionism is highly related to higher levels of anxiety conditions and other mental health issues. It was found that anxiety was connected to perfectionism traits and underlying mental health disorders and associated symptoms, including OCD, social anxiety, and PTSD symptoms.

Final Thoughts

Finally, let go of perfectionism and focus only on productivity. Our society is indeed obsessed with everything being perfect, but we know what it can cost. So, focusing on productivity seems more appropriate. And productivity is all about achieving more with less time and stress.

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Kiprono Langat
Kiprono Graduated from South Eastern Kenya University in 2019. He graduated with second class honors in actuarial science, but his passion was never to be established in the financial sector. He had a passion for writing, and he has been doing it for more than five years. Kiprono enjoys writing on the things that affect human health, and he has over 2000 articles submitted to various SEO websites. He now works full time as a writer in one of the world’s best SEO companies in Bangladesh. Kiprono understands the importance of working under strict timelines, and his employers give him credit for that. He spends his leisure hours during the weekend doing charity work.

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