perfect grass

So, let me be completely transparent: I am a self-admitted recovering perfectionist. As a 41-year-old type A personality, it took me well into my 30′s to admit that I had a problem with trying to be the perfect person. Perfect in all ways- perfect wife, mother, employee, daughter, friend- the list is endless. My behavior was completely self-inflicted and the judge and jury who decided the verdict of ‘perfect’ or ‘imperfect’, was always me. And for the most part, I just never measured up to where I set the bar.

Now, I should say that my battle of perfectionism has in many ways helped me be successful. Because I set high expectations for myself, I have been very successful in many parts of my life. However, if a behavioral habit has negative outcomes and is repeated regardless of those negative consequences, it is not healthy. And my perfectionism certainly became unhealthy.

Perfectionism has a lot of ugly friends and the one that I battle the most is guilt. As I continue to coach and mentor young professionals, I have found that guilt especially likes women. Perhaps it is negative media that has told us how we should look, feel and act or it could be socially-connected to how we grew up. Determining the ‘why’ is well beyond my level of education or pay grade. However, as an experienced perfectionist, here is what I can share with you if you struggle with a feeling of always needing to be perfect and feeling overwhelming guilt when you are not:

  • Admit that you are a perfectionist- it is liberating and ok to admit.
  • Write down the negative self-talk that occurs when you don’t measure up to your own expectations. Then, re-write that self-talk into positive points. Replacing the tapes that repeat in your head is key to changing your behavior.
  • Give yourself permission to mess up.
  • Set realistic standards for yourself.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Perfectionism can make you put things off so you don’t risk messing up.
  • Give yourself time. You are most likely working on changing a lifetime behavior and it will be one that you will have to consciously focus on throughout your life.
  • Reward yourself for making progress.
  • Ask for help. If you are not able to handle this yourself, it is perfectly acceptable to get help from a counselor, psychiatrist, life coach or other professional.

If you are a perfectionist, welcome to the club! It actually can be a beautiful trait if you learn to control the negative implications that come with it. Ultimately, it comes down to loving and accepting yourself, even your imperfections.

Here are a couple of books that might interest you:

Never Good Enough: How to Use Perfectionism to Your Advantage without Letting It Ruin Your Life by M.R. Basco (Simon & Schuster)

Perfectionism: What’s Bad about Being Too Good? By M. Adderholdt-Elliott, M. Elliott, & J. Goldberg (Monarch Books)


Natalie Guzman is a Senior Vice President of Marketing at Fifth Third Bank. She is an active member of Mentoring Women’s Network and     serves on the national Project: Lead committee.

One Response Comment

  • Alison  January 15, 2014 at 4:59 am

    Excellent blog post and one I think women, in particular, will identify with. We are wired to try to “do it all” with grace and perfection and when we don’t measure up, we can struggle with feelings of being not good enough. Thank you for your vulnerability and sharing this with us, Natalie.


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