By Ndukwu Chibundom Kaosisochukwu - July 27, 2022


I am a perfectionist.

Yeah, you know, just me being a perfectionist as usual…

There is a nice sling to it, saying that you are a perfectionist. To many who identify as such, it almost stands as a proclamation that they feel a bit superior to others. After all, while others are going about, comfortable with their imperfections, not caring at all about setting a perfect trail for themselves, a perfectionist is the sort of person who strives for flawlessness. This is often accomplished through fixating on imperfections, trying to control situations, working hard, and/or being critical of the self or others.

I am not a perfectionist, but I believe that, like every other person, there are times in which I feel a streak of perfectionism trying to seep into my life, especially when it comes to my writing. This, as I am sure a good number of writers would profess, really does have a way of rearing its ugly head whenever I sit down to write.

I guess this is a time to give a bit of a story.

As I explained in the previous post, for some years, I have been struggling with resuscitating my writing career, and part of the reasons for this is that I have been letting perfectionism tie me down.

I let the plague of perfectionism seep into my writing after taking a gap year from writing to prepare for my WAEC. By the time I was done with my graduation and I decided that I was going to go back to writing amidst the backdrop of different people asking me when I was going to release my next book, I realised that unlike before, I just could not bring myself to write the way that I used to.

The reason and one that I discovered much later in life was simple. Before, I just wanted to be a good writer. Writing to me was almost like a hobby. But by the time I graduated, I was taking writing as a possible career path that I might want to chart. So no longer was I wanting to be a good writer, I wanted to be a perfect one. But sadly, I was coming to the harsh reality that there was a chance that I was not really one at all.

This led to a lot of terrible downfalls for me. For instance, every failure that I faced seemed to, instead of pushing me to work harder, cripple me as all kept pointing out my inadequacies. I produced quite a few ideas for my next novels but ended after a few pages as I realised that what I was writing was just not as perfect as I wanted the works to be.

I was very harsh on myself during that time. During times in which I would sit down and not be able to type for very long before wearing out, I berate myself for being lazy, unserious, and indisciplined. There were just so many harsh words of self-criticism that one could take.

After some time, with the painful failures and what I felt were signs of having writer’s block, the fear of experiencing yet another one of those failures, and I just stopped writing for a long while.

Of course, I have long realised that striving for that was nothing short of silly, as there is nothing like a perfect writer.

Luckily, I do not have perfectionism as a distinct personality trait, and it has only ever soared its head in my writing.

But for many, perfectionism is a trait in their lives that get to follow them on whatever projects they set out to do. Sure, they do produce optimal, high-quality work, and most of them are high achievers, but sadly, it has been proven that such persons tend to achieve even less than the regular high achievers.

There is a chance that you all might know a perfectionist, or might identify as being one. With the current push towards productivity in the workplace and the results-based environment in which it is made clear that one has to be perfect to stand out, the rate of people that identify as perfectionists has never been higher.

I did a recent mini poll on Linkedin, asking career people whether they identified as perfectionists or not, and currently, with the votes that I have gotten, it is clear that there are, with a narrow margin, a lot more career people that think they are perfectionists than those that do not. Of course, this is based off my research. But extended research does show that there are a lot more people identifying as perfectionists and that the rates of people who are beginning to develop attributes connected to the perfectionists keep growing at an exponential rate.

Now, I believe that while some who say that they are perfectionists are, some people do not understand what being a perfectionist means and identify as one because they have traits that are not quite perfectionist but are similar in some respects. I also believe that some may be confusing being a high flier as being the same as a perfectionist. Setting high goals, striving to be the best, and wanting to achieve excellence, while being traits that can also be found in perfectionists, are not exclusive to them. One may have those attributes and be just a high flier and not a perfectionist, especially if one has those attributes minus the negative baggage that perfectionism has to offer.

And then others do not have it as a distinct personality trait but strive to be known as perfectionists because society and the fact that it has a positive connotation with the word, ‘Perfect’, makes it sound like a positive trait to have.

And that is dangerous. Because despite its pleasant name and association with high fliers and outstanding people, perfectionism has a lot of ugly horns rearing behind what appears to be its nice façade.



The perfectionist has a very low tolerance for imperfection and anything short of flawless. This extends to both the person’s life and that of the other people that the perfectionist might be working with or might be related to.

For a perfectionist, not being perfect is similar to being a failure and there is no in between. Hence, if the person creates anything that is not completely perfect and flawless, the person does not get satisfied with just the knowledge of the fact that the person did a good job, but heavily criticizes him or herself for being imperfect.

This is particularly worse when the person fails in something that that person believed he or she could be perfect in. While high fliers might learn their lesson and move on, perfectionists tend to remain on the ground and eat themselves up, being hard on themselves for not being the perfect beings that they would like to be.

Again, perfectionists have impossibly high standards for themselves and hence, failures and deficiencies in them might lead to depression, low self-esteem, shame, and several other negative qualities. Of course, they try to battle these feelings by striving to be more perfect, but because no human can be perfect, this just leads to a negative, toxic cycle that never ends.



Believe it or not, in case you have not yet been convinced, perfectionism can bring down a person’s chances of achieving things or becoming successful in life.

Perfectionism has been linked to the tendency to give up more easily when faced with challenges, the tendency to procrastinate or be fixed in one spot in life due to fear of failure.

For instance, a mere high flier may feel bad after a failure, but a perfectionist almost gets crippled by it, saddened, depressed, angered, and may even feel guilt and shame as a result of failures. Hence, due to the fear of experiencing another one of those failures, such a person might withdraw and stop doing that activity altogether.

Again, a perfectionist is much slower in producing and creating things or bringing about ideas. While a high flier might deem himself done the moment that he or she has created something good, a perfectionist would keep nit-picking at the project long past when it is necessary, always trying to find an error that the person can fix, a rough edge that the person can smoothen out. And hence, the rate of productivity of the said person ends up being much lower than that of a high flier.



The perfectionist is often a control freak, his or her need for perfection driven by the need to achieve perfect control of everything in his life, his career, his personal life, and even other people. This is why any inconsistencies, any derails from the perfect path that they have set out for themselves are usually met with a breakdown and intense negative emotions.

This does not only extend to his life but the lives of others. This is why the perfectionist is a very difficult person to work within a team. When a person has such high standards for himself, this tends to extend to all those around him. Such a person does not understand or have much patience for other normal people who do not have such high standards for themselves. In fact, a typical perfectionist will look down on those that do not have standards for themselves, regarding them as being inferior to him or herself whilst, in the most contradictory turn of events, will most often be suffering from self-esteem issues of his own as well.

As a result, the perfectionist is that person that you all cannot stand, even though you all appreciate that the person produces the most optimal of works. Such a perfectionist ends up making people distance from him and has very few friends of his own.



Sadly, there is a deep correlation between perfectionism and toxic productivity. Toxic productivity can be defined as essentially an unhealthy desire to be productive at all times, at all costs. It’s the need to go the “extra mile” at work or home, even when it’s not expected of you.

With the drive to be perfect at whatever you are doing, two instances occur. One is that perfectionism can cripple you, as I have explained before, making it impossible for you to achieve all of the high goals you set for yourself due to the intense pressure, anxiety, and fear of failure that guides you throughout whatever you set out to do.

Or you can due to the drive to be perfect, end up not being aware of when to stop and push yourself to overachieve to the point of having a mental and physical breakdown. Perfectionism and toxic productivity are a deadly duo because they ensure that one puts every other thing on the line to pursue the need to be perfect in all ramifications, and as we all know, this never ends well for the person in question.



A lot of people attribute their sense of self to their performance. But the rate is even higher for perfectionists. And hence, they do not take downfalls or inadequacies in themselves so easily. It has been shown the higher the perfectionism inherent in a person, the more psychological disorders the person is going to suffer. Perfectionists are more prone to having breakdowns and serious health issues over the usual downfalls of life. In fact, it has been shown that perfectionism is linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic headaches, etc.

There is even a mental illness and eating disorder that is called the illness of the perfectionists, and that is anorexia. Many anorexics are tied down by the need to attain the perfect body. And hence they are willing to let go of food, exercise past the healthy amount, especially given their size, and suffer from the sharp pangs of hunger and pain just so that they can attain the perfect and ideal body.

The fact is, perfectionism does not just hurt a person’s chances of actually being successful, but it has terrible consequences on a person’s mental health and perception of self.


There are certain key things that we can learn from the life of a perfectionist. Some of their attributes that can be said to be good, relatively speaking, of course, are: their beliefs that they can be the best, which backs up their strive towards achieving very high and seemingly unattainable goals, and the fact that on occasions in which they come out with something, the said project is usually very high quality.

While we can incorporate those attributes in our lives, we all should be careful to ensure that in the bid to be high fliers, we do not let perfectionism cripple every step of the way.


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  1. Wow!!!
    ND, you're really good. I love this... Although I think it's contrary to my personality. Somehow I think I'm a perfectionist but I'm amazed at your lectures. Write more please

    1. Thank you. I will most definitely be coming up with more articles and write ups in the near future.

  2. Great lessons in there. Kudos on yet another insightful write-up.

  3. For someone who is trapped in perfectionism, this is more like a relief read. I read something about this on The Economist, but you just split it further. I hope and look forward to freeing myself from this.
    You write so well.