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Friday Chatter: Are you a perfectionist?


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Things have been going really well for me lately.

My outside circumstances haven’t changed much. Work marches on and piles up, the to-do list is ever growing, I needed a haircut weeks ago, the studio is still a mess, Oregon is cold.

But for some reason, I’ve felt more able to let go of things. You see, I am a recovering perfectionist.

I think when people hear the word “perfectionist,” they think of some uptight, fussy Type A person who has to have everything just so and never makes mistakes.

I make mistakes all the time, and they drive me nuts. What being a perfectionist means to me is placing extremely high expectations on yourself, and treating yourself poorly when you don’t achieve them. Hell, treating yourself poorly when you DO achieve them. Nothing you do is good enough.

It’s pinning all your self-worth to your performance, whatever form that takes. Always striving, always comparing, always trying to be the best so that you feel lovable and worthy. It sucks.

Instead, I’ve been trying to focus on what genuinely makes me feel happy and creative, and going with that. I’ve focused more on experimentation and learning. I’ve made time for morning meditation and writing sessions. I’ve signed up for a couple classes. I’ve made time to spend having fun with Kenn and not talking about work. I’ve been writing about whatever interests me instead of what I think people want to hear.

It’s amazing to me how quickly my mind has begun to clear. A little bit of self-acceptance goes a long way, it seems.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? If so, you might like to read this book. It looks totally self-helpy (and it is), but I’ve gotten so much from it. Her TED talk on shame is awesome too, if you haven’t seen it.

While we’re on the subject, many of the links I’ve found this week are related to this subject.

Weekend Reading:

So what about you? Do you fight perfectionism?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 61

Annette Tirette

I’m not a perfectionist, and I learned not to be ages ago. However, I’m afraid of failure and this can be paralyzing at times. I’ve realised a long time ago that the kind of stuff I do- drawing, sewing, knitting,… will never be ‘perfect’ in my own eyes, and I learnt to look past that. I do still put a lot of time and effort in my work, but it’s more about reaching ‘the highest possible level’ than about ‘perfection’.

Sometimes I do get stopped in my tracks because I’m scared I won’t be good enough, and I end up doing nothing at all out of fear of ruining the project. I procrastinate a lot, but it’s not out of laziness, it’s nerves and fear. I was scared to start writing my stories, or decide on a final technique for my drawings, because I thought it was never going to be good enough to fulfill my own (and others’) expectations.

So in a way, I am a perfectionist. I don’t get too upset about making mistakes, but the thought of making them in a future project can halt me in my steps. Does that make sense?


I can relate to how you feel. Procrastination it may seems. But in my head I am working a way of making sure my project will go perfectly on the process until the finish.


Is the link to the masseuse’s post correct? I have to admit, I didn’t find his self-introduction as heart touching as I expected… I sure would like to read about his thoughts on bodies though.


You can find the massage therapist’s body article “What People Really Look Like” under the “essays menu”


Fixed the link, thanks. :)


“Comparison is the thief of joy”
Can’t remember where it came from but your post made me think of it.


Teddy Roosevelt, I think. :)


I do not fight perfectionism. For me, that feeds the monster. Perfectionism makes it very difficult to finish or even start a project. If I ‘fight’ my perfectionist tendencies, I do all the things that scare me anyway, despite doubts, fears, and the very loud voice in my head judging me. This type of fighting takes a ridiculous amount of energy and I just couldn’t do it anymore. What helps is accepting that I need a lot of patience and love with this part of myself. It helps to talk to friends, and ask for support if I need it. It helps to not see this part of me as evil or broken. Most of all, I am learning to take everything less seriously but I still have a long way to go. Good luck on your own journey

cynthia gehin

Agree about the amount of wasted energy that can go into, not getting on with projects for fear of them not ‘turning out perfect’. I try to look at nature and the patterns in natural things that appear ‘perfect’. Yet the small imperfections are what make many things special or exceptional.


I am also a recovering perfectionist (great article on the signs here: And I got Brene Brown’s book for Christmas and am planning to read through it with a friend next month! I love her work too and think she is doing really valuable research in areas we could all benefit from discussing more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!


Not to switch subjects, but I love the link about Google Analytics. Last year, I became numbers obsessed and because of it, I focused less on quality of my content and more on the amount of traffic I was receiving. It was counterintuitive because my numbers went down. I stopped checking my stats at the end of last year, and it was such a smart decision (I also turned off email notifications). Over the last two months, I’ve seen my work become better, back to where it used to be, and my readers engaging more (I have more commenters). I also am enjoying creating the work more, instead of focusing how many viewers I will have for that particular post.


I actually don’t check up on traffic numbers much at all (Kenn does once a week and I assume he’d let me know if something were worth knowing about). But I’m very sensitive to comments and feedback. I’m a people-pleaser and want to know that people are enjoying what I write, but there is definitely an element of wanting validation.


I am a perfectionist and I have been having problems with this for the past decade or so. I am trying to work through all of this, but it doesn’t seem as easy to me as everyone who has these breakthroughs. I keep with the “I know that BUT..” thought and haven’t been able to shake it yet.
I am going to check out that book you listed. The links you provided were wonderful!


Please do, it seems like a lot of people find it helpful.

It’s a lot easier to have a realization about yourself than to make change, at least for me. For years, I’ve known that I want to slow down, not work so hard, make time for other hobbies and for friends. But I’ve kept going because I felt I didn’t have a choice. It’s just the life of a small business person, I thought.

Deep down, I knew that my ego is wrapped up in the idea of having a successful business, so that’s why I’m prioritizing work. But knowing that didn’t really help.

The actual change is going to take much longer. Maybe a lifetime.


My fashion choices are most influenced by my body type. With a 38DD, thick-ish waist, and narrow hips and thighs, it is impossible to find RTW that fits and flatters, and patterns take extreme alterations to come close to fitting. It has taken me until my mid-fifties to realize that, the shape issues are the fault of cookie-cutter fashion and mass marketing. While I would probably look and feel better carrying less weight, I still have to dress the body I have now, and I’m tired of wearing t-shirts and stretch-waist pants.


Sarai, I’m a big fan of the TED talks. Thank you for the suggested subject matter.


I have to say that I am not a perfectionist at all, rather I’m the Queen of Good Enough. Makes for an easy life, I suppose, just the results aren’t all that great all the time ;-).
Swings and roundabouts…


I’m loving your thought-provoking posts!! This is a really interesting topic for me – I have a somewhat complicated history with perfectionism. I’m a professional musician, so in the practice room we all work as hard as we can to achieve perfection, but at the same time, we have to learn to let go when we make mistakes in a performance.

I used to be more of a performance-driven gal, which resulted in a “practice and produce” mentality. However, recently I have been working at a job that requires me to produce at all times – I play for a ballet school, so I literally play so many hours a day that I don’t have time to practice! So I make mistakes – and I accept them. In fact, I have even learned to turn my mistakes into art. It has been a very healing process for me.

As I have gotten more into sewing in the past few months, the perfectionist side of me has started to creep in, and I’ve been trying to take a step back to examine if this is a positive or a negative. I think it is important to differentiate between “positive perfectionism” – the detail-oriented mentality that drives us to better craftsmanship and results in pride in our finished product – and “negative perfectionism” – the destructively obsessive mindset that takes away our feeling of self-worth if we “fail.”

I see both my music making and my sewing as different forms of “craftmanship,” so it is my goal to create music or garments that I can take pride in. In order to accomplish that goal, I do need to work on the details, and continually push myself to play with greater accuracy, fit with more precision, and be willing to “redo” when necessary. It is equally important, though, to accept that mistakes will happen – that’s what makes us human. In fact, some of the best performances I’ve seen are ones that have included mistakes – they show us that the performer is human, and it creates a connection the audience can relate to. Perhaps I can look at my sewing mistakes in the same way.


You are completely right, I believe it is all about the mindset. If you’re practicing for the joy of achievement and learning, mistakes become less of a big deal because mistakes ARE how you get better.

But if your goal is to be perfect because you think you need to be at a certain level in order to have worth, or you want to be better than someone else, that’s when it gets destructive.


Wow, your definition of what it means to be a perfectionist rings so, so true for me as well. It’s always interesting to me when people who’s work and general productivity I so admire admit that they too worry about whether they’ve done enough, well enough, etc. This is an additional aspect to my own perfectionist tendencies: I often feel as though everyone else is doing more, and better, and that it’s somehow easier for them. The older I get the less I worry about all this, and it sounds as though the same is true for you.

I really appreciate your willingness to share thoughts like these here. I also congratulate you, first for the amount of success you’ve been able to find despite your perfectionism (because this personality trait can often lead people into paralysis…I speak from experience!), and second for pursuing and integrating new ways to get the heck over it into your life!


I’m not a perfectionist, per se, but fear of screwing up or not doing a good enough job make it very hard for me to start projects.

Case in point: I have my fabric back from the dry cleaners for my husband’s Albion coat. The fear of making a mistake (or it being ugly) have kept me from starting the real work of coat. And he *needs* it now! Argh!!!


Wow! Reading this I realize how alike we are. I’m going to go out on a limb here and open up…I never feel I meet my expectations or are good enough and beat myself up for this daily. I’m going to take a look at your links because it is a really frustrating way to live


It’s like you’ve read my mind. I started a blog post on this last week and haven’t posted it yet because I felt it wasn’t good enough. Hmm I just typed about 3 or 4 sentences here and just found myself deleting them all…is that proof enough? Thanks for the book suggestion! I’ve been searching for something just like this. I’ve done ordered it!


As I was reading the beginning of your post I thought about the book The Gifts of Imperfection, which I’m reading now. I was going to suggest it to you and was pleased when you mentioned it later in the blog. If anyone is reading this, they should definitely read the book. The author is fantastic. Great blog post!


Thank you for this very interesting and timely (for me) post. I just listened to the TED talk by Brene and now am reminded that I should feel empowered by my current situation. I have been going through a rough period of realizing that the career path I have been working towards for the past 23 years is probably over. But, at the same time throughout this period I know that I have been avoiding a very integral part of my character, which is to be truly devoted to a creative life. I wanted the stability and framework of my previous career (science) to realize my creativity, but being a daughter of two visual artists, I just can’t help it, I need to exhibit my creativity in the visual arts of some sort. But I’ve been paralyzed by fear to do this, perhaps it is really shame now that I saw the TED talk. This talk reminded me of what my parents do on a daily basis, which is to be on that edge of the known/unknown and accepted/unaccepted and working with to create truly innovative and honest work. What could be more liberating than to work through the risks and come out the other end with a creation that previously existed ethereally in the mind? I am feeling much more empowered by what I learned from your post today and I thank you. Keep up the good work!

Lady ID

I actually have that book and have not read it since I got it years ago. I am a bit of a perfectionist but I am also realistic about what is and is not doable. I simply aim to do the best I am able to and to push myself to learn.

In the past years, the more I study the Bible, I have learned to be gentle with myself without losing the drive to do well.


I struggled with this much of my life, too. As a child I was sure nobody could love a girl who wasn’t good at math! Over many years I learned to accept my limitations. I discovered that actually, nobody else was perfect, either, it was just an illusion. After a while, failure didn’t mean I was incapable, or that I wasn’t worthy of love. But I still really, really hate failing. And, of course, I failed a few times in some pretty big ways along the way to drive the lesson home. Ouch. So I had to forgive myself for that, which was hard. Sometimes I forget and have to remind myself about the perfect illusion.
But here’s the other side: I’ve also noted my desire to be perfect makes me pay attention more to what I do, how well I do it, and to continue until I’m good at it- not just good, but the best I can possibly be, because I want to be perfect. It gives me confidence to seek out knowledge and try things because I don’t entertain the notion that I might fail. It’s out of the question. I won’t fail, because I’m going to be…perfect. But these days I accept it might not be perfect the first time, but maybe next time after I learn some more…. And sometimes my failures turned into successes after I looked at them differently, or found a way to make it work. I always learned something from failing..and I love to learn, maybe not to fail, but to learn something, that’s what I could live with. And this, for me, It was the secret to finding happiness in perfectionism. Using it to strive and seeing it as a tool to succeed instead of a weapon to use on myself. And lots of forgiveness. Accepting the way you are is a kind of perfection: perfect is in the eye of the beholder.


I’m not a perfectionist, really…I’m more of a “do the best you can with what you have” kind of person. I especially have to apply this to my job as a research editor — with some of my projects I start with very little information and have to fly a bit blindly at first. It’s nerve-wracking to say the least! I will also admit that when I make small errors, I end up fixating on them for no good reason…I’m working on this. :)


It’s interesting how we’re taught from a very young age to be kind to others, but nothing is taught about being kind to one’s self. I’m very much a perfectionist who likes to tick the boxes off with each completed task. I tend to get caught up in what needs to be done next instead of just enjoying the moment. I started sewing a little over a year ago and while I still like to check off the ‘finished object’ box, since it’s my hobby I’m a little more laid back about it. I’m enjoying these thought provoking posts and thank you for the links and book recommendation!

Marliese Thomas

I have a severe fear of judgement. I adore planning and starting projects and even showing them to people mid-process. But some part of me puts off finishing them, because then I’d have to say it’s complete and open for opinion. As long as I’m still working on it, I can respond to any critiques with “oh, I’m still changing things”. Or I’ll procrastinate and rush, then justifying any errors as “well, it wasn’t my best work anyway”.

Committing myself to projects for others (friends, clients) has helped me because it creates deadlines for finishing and requires quality skills. I’m hoping that reaching this level of acceptance in one area of my life (sewing, artistic endeavors) will then make it easier or be reflected in other areas of my life.

Thank you for your awesome and honest posts, and your equally awesome community of readers with their wonderful comments.

Rachel W.

I’ve never been the successful, organized, Type A perfectionist– I’m the messy, scatterbrained, easily-frustrated perfectionist, prone to getting depressed over tiny flaws. My husband’s theory is that I get so bummed because I move the finish line with each project. As soon as I finish stitching the most difficult garment I’ve ever made, it becomes not an achievement, but the new normal. If I ever do worse than that ever again, that means I’m stupid and a failure! Typing it, I realize how nuts that sounds– which is progress, I suppose!

I once heard a lecturer call the sort of paralyzing, fear-of-not-being-good-enough procrastination ‘frustrated perfectionism.’ That’s definitely what I’m prone to. I have yards of fabric that are ‘too nice’ to waste on my current skill level. This year, I want to sew through some of that stash. Those garments definitely won’t be perfect, but they’ll be better than imaginary clothes that never get made!


Reminds me of this cartoon I saw yesterday:


I can definitely advocate leaving perfectionism behind. I don’t know which helped which but I stopped being such a perfectionist and got over my chronic depression at about the same time. It’s good to give yourself a bit of slack. :-)

lisa g

ah yes… i definitely fall into the “perfectionist” category. fortunately, i am usually balanced by what is reasonable, otherwise i might go off the deep end, and in return make everyone around me miserable! also, i love the google analytics link. when i switched my blog from blogger to WP, those number quit staring me in the face and i don’t even think about it anymore. thanks for the great post!


I’ve been finding your posts lately particularly interesting and inspiring. So it seems that you writing about what interests you = what I want to hear anyway!


Thanks for this post, i’m recovering from anxiety and i think that’s very similar. I’m just learning to forgive myself if i don’t go to the gym or if i rush some sewing. If others are unkind i always think it’s my fault first rather then they maybe having a bad day.


Thanks for this post. You’re so not alone. I struggle with this daily. I had decided last year that as soon as I get a chance I’m going to read some books by Brene Brown. Thanks for sharing!


Thank you so much for sharing this, Sarai. It really helps to know I’m not the only one struggling with this. I’ve been battling perfectionism my whole life, and it has led to all kinds of health problems from stress. In school, I considered any grade less than 100% to be a failure. I run a creative internet business too, and even though it’s “successful” (i.e. I make a decent living) I feel like in order to be truly successful, I need to keep pushing it, growing it, and hiring employees. I feel like just running the business isn’t enough – that I’m lazy if I’m not working 12 hour days, 7 days a week, and always aiming bigger. I know deep down I need to take a step back, regain balance, and focus on my health first, and that’s what I’m currently doing, but I just can’t get rid of those thoughts that the business (and, by extension, me) isn’t good enough unless I push myself to exhaustion. I’m trying really hard to let sewing be my relaxation time, and to not let the perfectionist thoughts creep in. It’s definitely not an overnight change, and awareness is just the first step, but I keep working at it.


Chantal, I really relate to what you’re saying. I feel like it’s one of the dark pitfalls of running a business, because you aren’t really limited in how far you can take your workaholism. Combine that with the fact that your whole identity is wrapped up in your “success” and it’s a recipe for craziness.

Lianne C

I love this post. I honestly think you could design patterns for clown suits and I’d buy them because of posts like this one. That a company driven by self-worth, sincerity and humanity also creates patterns that are beautifully designed, packaged and written is extraordinary. I just want to extend my thanks, because I honestly feel grateful for people like you and your incredible team.


Thanks Lianne, that means so much.

Giggles in the Sun

I can so relate to tho the perfectionism. At times it is paralysing. Whenever I post an item on my blog I immediately point out everything that is wrong with it. Instead of posting it as an achievement saying that I was so short of time and it was hot and I still managed to sew and turn out a product that is at least as good if not better than one I could have found at my price range, so yeay me.

Perhaps I could make this my belated New Years Resolution: I shall not say anything negative about my achievements :-)


Thank you for being so open and honest, as usual, Sarai. I can relate, to say the least. Like you I’m a *recovering* people pleaser and a perfectionist. I think this is at the heart of a great deal of the anxiety and worry I feel sometimes. However, I am also very detail and process oriented; two things that allow me to do some of my best work. It’s hard sometimes for me to tease the two apart, or to know which is which when I work. Or is my orientation towards detail and process part of the perfectionism or because of it! Then I realise that this is way to complex to nut out and I am who I am right now. Nothing I am is good or bad, it just is. If something no longer serves me, I should let it go. If it still does, keep it. I suppose it’s really that simple. :)


“There is negative perfectionism and positive perfectionism. The negative sort often revolves around the fear of being found inadequate. A positive perfectionism gives best effort, stays with something productive for mastery’s sake. Positive perfectionism urges the psyche to learn to do things better; how to write better, speak, paint, eat, relax, worship better and so on. Positive perfectionism makes certain actions consistently in order to recognize a dream”

This is from ‘Women who run with the Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It’s an amazing book and totally worth reading.


Thank you for that quote! That totally makes sense to me – I can’t believe I haven’t read that book yet…will go to library tomorrow…such a classic. :)

Alice Elliot

Thanks so much for the book recommendation. I’ve ordered it. I really need it!!!


I would also say that I am a recovering perfectionist. I’m trying to look less at the imperfect and more at the good things. I know that with my body and my crafting, I tend to point out what is negative when someone compliments me/the craft. I’m trying to stop automatically pointing out what’s wrong with it. I’m also learning how to give up my perfectionism in cooking. I love to bake and cook and the taste of what I make is very good. However, in the past I compared my 30 cream puffs to the three or four that were selected for the recipe picture and get disappointed. I’m learning to remind myself that I would rather have the imperfect and handmade than the perfect and produced. Its a learning experience .


I think, unfortunately, I learned from a young age that anything I did wasn’t good enough. And so, perfectionism is something I’ve struggled with for most of my life. There was a point in my life where it stopped me from even starting any projects because I just *knew* that I wouldn’t be able to make them PERFECT. And, it stopped me from finishing anything I did manage to start because, again, it would never be PERFECT.

It’s funny, I’m the first person to encourage everyone around me and to point out to my students how well they are doing (I’m a high school teacher) and to attempt to gently push people away from perfectionism. But, I rarely treat myself this way. I’m still learning that if I don’t point out all of the mistakes I’ve made, no one else will notice them. And, people around me take cues from ME about how to treat me. If I don’t treat myself well, its noticed.

I would also recommend ANY of Brene Brown’s books. I’ve read the one you linked to, as well as “Daring Greatly” and “I Thought It Was Just Me” and all three of them are wonderful and helped me a LOT.

And, as Brene Brown says, the best thing you can do to help someone who is in shame is to say “me, too.” So, thank you for sharing this with us. It’s important that we know others have travelled this path and found their way through.


Also: I think you need to get “like” buttons on the blog comments because there are so many comments here that I just want to give a big ole thumbs up to! :)


This was a wonderful post to stumble upon at the start of a new year. Sewing has certainly helped me to recognize my perfectionism habits and I am much less self-critical than I was 3 years ago. But there is still progress to make.
I prefer not to focus too much on correcting my perfectionism, because it can be easy to get stuck in a feedback loop as I become obsessive and self-critical about not trying to be so. :)
However, it is nice to be reminded of this. And I appreciate discovering new resources (books, TED talks, etc) for inspiration and tips.
Thank you.


Your definition of perfectionism is spot on. It’s so frustrating to see all the mistakes, and I just get irritated with other people trying to complement things I do. Although I politely down-play the achievement, inside I don’t understand why they keep trying to act likes it’s something to be proud of. They seriously don’t see what a mess it is, how it’s been done better by others a hundred times before?

Procrastinating offers an easy out, although it’s stressful as well. There’s kind of a paralyzing fear, like living under the sword of Damocles. I’m supposed to be “the artsy one.” Eventually, people will see the truth. They’ll finally see the crooked seams and sloppy, derivative work and the sword will fall.


As far as I am concerned perfectionism was, at first, coupled with a very low self esteem… Let’s say that I grew up constantly hearing that I was stupid (which is definitely not true!), had just to shut my mouth and that I understood nothing. Quite hard to overcome that kind of abuse, right? I therefore always tried to be the first in class, be the oh so nice little girl, happy to live in order to maybe get one compliment. So of course, when I did fail (as I am not and will never be perfect of course), I called myself stupid and the likes.
It took me a very long time to have the force to undergo analysis and finally come to terms with this history and realize and know that I am not stupid, that I can do whatever I set my heart to if I really go for it (and my year in the US was an eye opener and I will be forever grateful for this) and that failure IS indeed an option. It’s the same with my sewing projects. I really give it my best and I curse when something does not work the way I want but I try to be nice to me and say to myself if the result is not up to what I thought it should be that there is always room for improvement ;-)


Congratulations on overcoming that past to develop such a healthy outlook!

Lynne B

I’m definitely a perfectionist who doesn’t berate myself for not being perfect. For me, the upside of perfectionism is that it helps me sharpen my skills both technically and artistically. As long-time knitter, I’ve used mistakes to analyze technique, and they often lead me to discover new processes. As a fairly new sewer, I anticipate that setting the highest standard will help me to quickly improve. And I just plain refuse to allow something I enjoy doing as much as knitting and sewing to make me feel bad!


Thank you so much for including a link to my post “Intentionalist, Not Minimalist. It’s one of my most viewed and well-received posts. I’m definitely a recovering perfectionist. I can’t do it all, and when I try it takes a major toll on my health. This year I am focusing on more JOY and just being, rather than doing so much (this mostly applies to running the many-armed octopus that is my business).


Thank you, thank you for this post – what a revelation. I have watched the Brene TED talk on the train to work – Amazing.

I am not a perfectionist, but suffer from the “I can’t do it” syndrome and have low self esteem. My husband always goes mad at me as I never give anything a go , just straight away say No!

If something is too hard, I just give up, I am hopeless. This year though, I am trying with my sewing to slow down and take my time with projects and work my way through the difficulties. And if something isn’t quite right, that is ok.. I have so many UFO’s in my cupboards because of this. I have to remember that it is just sewing.. noone is going to do die and it isn’t the end of the world.

This topic ties in perfectly as well (for me) with your Wardrobe Architect project. I will make and wear what I want to…

I am going to step into that Arena this year.

Again, thank you.

Miss Crayola Creepy

I ordered this book because of your recommendation and received it today. I can’t wait to read it, I think it will help me with some of my issues. xoxo


I’d be interested to know what you think, Erin!

Anne K

Ironically, the area in which I am the most picky perfectionist is SEWING! I don’t sew as much as I’d really like to because I get so frustrated with each little imperfection – real or perceived. I continue to work on curbing this annoying habit. :-)

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