Is Perfectionism Limiting your Performance?

Have you ever wondered if you are a perfectionist?

Chances are, you would consider perfectionism as a positive trait – who doesn’t want to be perfect?

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is defined as a broad personality style characterized by a person’s concern with striving for flawlessness and perfection and is accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations (Stoeber & Childs, 2010).

Here are some signs that you might be a perfectionist:

  1. Procrastinating on a task until you know you can do it perfectly
  2. Deem the results as the most important part of completing the task, you disregard the process you take to get your results
  3. To view a task as incomplete until it meets your expectations
  4. Take a longer time to finish a task that others typically take lesser time to finish

(Haase, Prapavessis & Owens, 2013)

How does Perfectionism limit your Performance?

Perfectionism is something that the average athlete grapples with from time to time, and it important to educate yourself about what constitutes perfectionism, and how it can have debilitating effects on your performance and mental health.

They may be the most hardworking players on the team but seldom play to their potential under competitive stress. Perfectionists are constantly distract by the fear of making mistakes and losing. They worry and overanalyze the mechanics of their game, and tend to either play tentatively or exert more effort than optimal. This limits their ability to play freely, assertively and with high confidence.

Perfectionist athletes often view negative results and feedback as failure which causes them to lose confidence, dwell on the mistakes and become frustrated. In the long run, this often leads to emotional and mental exhaustion.

So what can you do about it?

Here are 3 ways to overcome perfectionism and perform with high confidence:

  1. Acknowledge that humans are imperfect and that mistakes will be made!

It is easy to dwell on mistakes especially when they are hard-hitting mistakes that cannot be reversed. What is important to remember here is to remind ourselves that can learn from mistakes and move on.

Do this by working on your emotions when faced with a difficulty or after making a mistake. Stay present in the moment and from there, make a plan on what you can do for similar situations in the future. This will prevent you from dwelling so much on your past mistakes.   

2. Performing with Trust

Trust is the feeling of an effortless and unconscious’ performance. Over-controlling a movement, fear, doubt, indecision, and anxiety all destroy the ability to trust.

Athletes who struggle with perfectionism need to learn how to transition from a practice or ‘Training Mindset, to a performance or ‘Trust Mindset’ prior to execution and competition.

“Let go of conscious controlling tendencies and allowing one’s skills to run off from motor memory (or what you practiced) instead of conscious directives from the mind…” Dr. Patrick Cohn

More strategies to improve trust will be introduced in the next blog post.

3. Focus on the process

In The Inner Game of Golf (1979), Tim Gallewey recommends that golfers say the word “back” on the backswing and “hit” on the downswing. ‘Back’ and ‘Hit’ are examples of process goals or performance cues that will help suspend your mind from expectations related to fear of failure and judgment.

To let go of harmful expectations and refocus on the process goals is also another way of helping you to improve trust. This is a significant psychological skill that will help you to develop trust and to perform freely under competitive stress.

I would strongly urge any athlete who wish to learn this key psychological skill to invest in the e-program The Process Focused Athlete.

Coach Hansen


Haase, A. M., Prapavessis, H., & Owens, R. G. (2013). Domain-specificity in perfectionism: Variations across domains of life. Personality and Individual Differences, 55(6), 711-715.

Hill, A. P., & Madigan, D. J. (2017). A short review of perfectionism in sport, dance and exercise: Out with the old, in with the 2 × 2. Current Opinion in Psychology, 16, 72-77.

Stoeber, J., & Childs, J. H. (2010). The assessment of self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism: Subscales make a difference. Journal of personality assessment, 92(6), 577-585.

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