Find Your Program
Or browse by
Browse our programs
Why Excellencism Is Better Than Perfectionism
What’s wrong with wanting to be perfect? The perfect students get straight A’s. On social media, perfect pictures get loads of likes.
The Downsides of Perfectionism
But the truth is, no one is perfect. If you demand perfection—from yourself or from others—you ultimately will be disappointed.
And the downsides of perfectionism can be much more destructive than mere disappointment. While perfectionism itself isn’t a mental disorder, it can lead to a variety of health issues. Insisting on maintaining a perfectly tidy, organized home can result in obsessive-compulsive disorder. A desire for the perfect career can turn into workaholism. Obsessing over the perfect body can lead to eating disorders. Perfectionism can be a pathway to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even suicide.1
Types of Perfectionism
Researchers have identified three types of perfectionists.
Other-Oriented Perfectionists. These perfectionists hold other people to impossibly high standards.
Socially Prescribed Perfectionists. Socially prescribed perfectionists feel intense pressure to succeed and are highly critical of themselves. They hold themselves to unrealistic standards that can be linked to society, their own family, or their workplace.
Self-Oriented Perfectionists. These perfectionists hold themselves to their own extremely high standards. They are extremely self-critical.2
No matter what type of perfectionist someone is, a 2022 study found that striving for perfect actually leads to worse results than setting a goal of excellence.3 Because perfectionists rarely feel that something is “good enough,” they actually can fail to complete projects. They can develop insomnia, and the lack of sleep can result in poor work. And perfectionists can lose motivation because they are unable to accept that they have completed an assignment satisfactorily.
Why Excellence Is Better Than Perfection
Excellencism means striving for excellence. Someone who practices excellencism is known as an excellencist. Excellencists set high standards—but they don’t beat themselves up if they don’t meet those standards. Excellencists are motivated and conscientious. They reach for greatness and make progress toward their life goals instead of being paralyzed by a need to be flawless. In short: Excellencists understand that they can be excellent even if they aren’t perfect.4
Three Steps to Overcoming Perfectionism
If you recognize tendencies toward perfectionism in yourself or someone you care for, know that perfectionists can change. Here are three steps to letting go of perfectionism.5
Discover where your perfectionism comes from. Think back to how old you were when you started to focus on perfection. Journal or draw and tell yourself the origin story of your perfectionism. When you’re aware of the roots of your perfectionism, it is easier to acknowledge and alter your behavior.
Notice perfectionism. If you feel anxiety as you work toward a goal, you might be holding yourself to an unrealistic standard. If you accomplish a goal but still feel disappointed, you might be engaging in perfectionistic behavior.
Try out excellencism. Select something that you know can bring out perfectionist tendencies. Maybe you’re going to make a presentation at a work meeting. Think about how long you would spend on that presentation if you made it perfect. Ten hours? And then think about how long you would spend on that presentation to make it excellent. Five hours? Resolve to spend five hours on the presentation. Then see what the reaction is to your presentation. Do your boss and co-workers like it as much as your past “perfect” presentations? Or maybe even better? You’ll likely see that you can spend less time on projects by accepting excellence, you’ll still have a positive outcome, and you’ll feel better, too.
They say practice makes perfect, but in truth, practice makes excellence. Remember: It will take practice to embrace excellencism. And that’s perfectly OK.
Do you feel called to help people overcome life’s challenges? A career in mental health counseling might be an excellent choice. You could work as a mental health counselor at a shelter, a mental health center, a hospital, a family service organization, a government agency, or a private practice. You could counsel families, couples, or individuals to foster growth and wellness.6
Typically, a master’s in clinical mental health counseling is required to work as a counselor in the mental health field. Thanks to today’s technology, you can earn a master’s in counseling degree online from an accredited program. Walden University is an accredited university, and Walden’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program has been accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) since 2009. Online education gives adult learners the opportunity to work full time and complete coursework whenever—and wherever—is convenient for them. With a Wi-Fi connection, you can be on your way to both a master’s degree and a new career helping others.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
3, 5Source: www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/flipping-out/202212/study-perfectionism-can-mean-worse-performance-depression
6Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.
Note on Licensure
Walden University’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which is a requirement for licensure in many states. The MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is designed to prepare graduates to qualify to sit for licensing exams and to meet the academic licensure requirements of many state counseling boards. Because no graduate program can guarantee licensure upon graduation, we encourage students to consult the appropriate agency to determine specific requirements. For more information about licensure, students should visit the National Board for Certified Counselors at www.nbcc.org/search/stateboarddirectory, the American Association of State Counseling Boards at www.aascb.org, and contact the appropriate licensing body. International students are encouraged to identify and contact their appropriate licensing body. Learn more about professional licensure.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
Whether looking for information on programs, admissions, or financial aid, we're here to help.
Fill out the form and we will contact you to provide information about furthering your education.
Please use our International Form if you live outside of the U.S.