How Unhelpful Perfectionism can Stand in the way of Self Love

“Good enough is good enough. Perfect will make you a big fat mess every time.” ― Rebecca Wells


Do you feel a lot of pressure to achieve “perfection”? Perhaps you feel that you must look a certain way, that you must do things right so that nobody else judges you, that you need to have a spotless home, or that you should never fail or make a mistake? There can be a lot of pressure to achieve “perfection” in our society.  Yet perfectionism is often something that can drive you down a path towards low self-esteem, anxiety and low mood.

Unhelpful perfectionism is where you set very high standards or goals for yourself and pursue these high standards despite negative consequences arising (eg. feelings of exhaustion or feeling down and anxious).  Often, unhelpful perfectionism involves focusing on one (or two) areas of your life to the detriment of all others.  So, for example, you may spend a lot of time focusing on your work life and this means that you don’t have much of a social life or have enough time to take care of your health. Or it could mean that you worry a lot about how you look and spend hours meal-planning and in the gym. But all this appearance-focus means that you cancel plans with friends and can’t concentrate at work.

Unhelpful perfectionism is different from just having high standards. When you have high standards, you can pursue them without it affecting your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself. Usually when you have unhelpful perfectionism your self-esteem is tied up in whether or not you are achieving your goals.  Here are some key differences between just having high standards and unhelpful perfectionism:



You set realistic and helpful goals in your life.

You set unrealistically high goals for yourself.

You have a good balance between the different areas in your life eg. between work/ hobbies/ family/ friends/ relaxation/ health etc.

A lot of your time, energy and focus goes into one or two areas of your life.

Going after your goals makes your feel good.

Going after your goals makes you feel anxious, down, stressed or tired.

You motivate yourself to get to your goals in a kind and compassionate way eg. “you can do this, I believe in you”.

You motivate yourself to get to your goals by being very harsh on yourself and very critical of yourself eg. “you are a failure unless you achieve this”.

Once you get to your goal, you congratulate yourself and celebrate what you have achieved.

Once you get to your goal, you are wondering “what is next” and what higher goal you can get to.

You feel good about yourself.

You often feel as though you aren’t “good enough”.

Unhelpful perfectionism can stand in the way of self love because when you are a perfectionist, you tend to only feel good about yourself if you are hitting your unrealistically high standards. Basically, your like and love of yourself is conditional.  True self love should be unconditional and shouldn’t be tied to what you are doing in life, how you look, or what goals you have hit. Really valuing yourself comes from knowing that you are worthy as a person for you who are, irrespective of what you are achieving or doing.

Having unhelpful perfectionism can make any self love you show or any self-confidence you have, very fragile.  Because you may only feel able to show yourself that love when things are going well and you are on track towards your goals.  But if you experience a set-back (which we all do sometimes) such as an illness, injury, loss, change in circumstances or something else, you may then not feel good about yourself due to factors beyond your control.

Also, unhelpful perfectionism tends to involve having a very harsh and critical little voice in your head.  This mean little voice is very incompatible with practising self-love and showing self-compassion. Speaking to yourself with kindness and compassion is a very important aspect of practising self love.

So, yes, there can be a lot of pressure to be “perfect” today.  You may feel the need to look just like that influencer on Instagram, to be earning more money than your friends or to never make a mistake or fail at anything.  But there is really no such thing as “perfect”. We are all different and we are all on our own unique journeys through life. In fact, once we let go of that need to be “perfect”, we often realise what is really important to us in life.  Striving after “perfection” often makes us tie our worth to what we have achieved… when actually, when we really think about it, so many other things are truly most important to us. 

“i have this productivity anxiety
that everyone else is working harder than me
and i’m going to be left behind
cause i’m not working fast enough
long enough
and i’m wasting my time
i don’t sit down to have breakfast
i take it to go
i call my mother when i’m free—otherwise
it takes too long to have a conversation
i put off everything that
won’t bring me closer to my dreams
as if the things i’m putting off
are not the dream themselves
isn’t the dream
that i have a mother to call
and a table to eat breakfast at
instead i’m lost in the sick need
to optimize every hour of my day
so i’m improving in some way
making money in some way
advancing my career in some way
because that’s what it takes
to be successful
i excavate my life
package it up
sell it to the world
capitalism got inside my head
and made me think my only value
is how much i produce
for people to consume
capitalism got inside my head
and made me think
i am of worth
as long as i am working
i learned impatience from it
i learned self-doubt from it
learned to plant seeds in the ground
and expect flowers the next day
but magic
doesn’t work like that
magic doesn’t happen
cause i’ve figured out how to
pack more work in a day
magic moves
by the laws of nature
and nature has its own clock
magic happens
when we play
when we escape
daydream and imagine
that’s where everything
with the power to fulfill us
is waiting on its knees for us
- productivity anxiety”
― Rupi Kaur,


Meet the author

Uxshely Carcamo is a psychotherapist, registered nutritionist, hypnotherapist and ex-lawyer. She founded The Food Therapy Clinic ( and helps her clients to re-build their relationship with food, boost their confidence, believe in themselves and feel great about their lives and their bodies.  You can find her on Instagram here:, Facebook here: and LinkedIn here: for some more posts to help you to nurture self-love.


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