Overcoming perfectionism: A guide to being kind to yourself

Perfectionist rearranging items to be straight

Being a perfectionist is often seen as a really good thing; commonly seen by employers as a coveted personality trait. In school business management, there isn’t always time for perfection - so what happens if you’re a perfectionist who doesn’t achieve perfection?

Our guide will take you through the signs of a perfectionist and ways you can be more kind to your perfectionist self. If you are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression as a result of a perfectionist attitude to your work, we would always advise seeking the help of a healthcare professional.


What is perfectionism?

Not to be mistaken with striving to be your best, perfectionism is the need to be or appear to be perfect. The problem with perfectionism in comparison to striving to do your best is that perfectionists commonly achieve less and stress more because being perfect all the time is impossible.


6 signs you might be a perfectionist

If you consider yourself a perfectionist, take a look at the below list and see if you recognise any of these behaviours in yourself.


1.  Highly critical of yourself and others

Perfectionists tend to be more critical of themselves and others when it comes to achieving. Perfectionists are often quick to spot even the smallest of mistakes and struggle to see anything other than the imperfections. They struggle to see the good in what they or others have achieved and are usually highly critical of ‘failure’.


2. Unrealistic standards

When you work in a professional setting like a school, anything less than perfect can seem like you’re doing a bad job. This doesn’t just include the quality of work, but also the hours you’re willing to work. Perfectionists are likely to set extremely high expectations of themselves and others.


3. Fear of failure

Perfectionists have a lot farther to fall when something doesn’t go right, which often results in greater fear of failure. If you do anything less than perfect it is seen as a failure. If this tends to be your attitude, then you’re probably going to struggle to start and complete a task.


4. Procrastination

It might seem odd to think that perfectionists would be procrastinators. But because of their fear of failure, perfectionists struggle to start and complete tasks because they become paralysed by the fear that the task they are doing maybe completed imperfectly.


5. Emphasis on the end product

For perfectionists, it is the end product that they put the most weight behind. They see it as the most important part of a task, struggling to take pleasure or learn from the process.


6. Low self-esteem

Perfectionists are often particularly self-critical and suffer from low self-esteem. They can also be quite lonely as their rigidity can push others away.


Ways to help yourself when you’re a perfectionist

If you recognise some of the signs above in your own behaviour, you might find some of the pointers below helpful as a way of managing your perfectionism. However, if you are struggling with your mental health as a result of perfectionism, you should seek help from a healthcare professional. You can also find support from charities such as Mind and Education Support.


Set deadlines and create a schedule

SBMs are some of the most organised workers on the planet because they have to be! But are you organised with your time? Or do you spend long times procrastinating about a task rather than getting down to doing it? Set realistic deadlines and goals for yourself. If you have a goal to aim for, you’re eradicating the perfectionist’s worst nightmare: a blank canvas.


You can only do what you can do

There are 24 hours in a day, but that doesn’t mean you should use 18 of them to get a job done. In fact, you categorically shouldn’t. The job might not get done, but if you push yourself too hard with the hours you’re working, it won’t be sustainable. Your mental health could suffer and then no one will be around to do the job which is surely worse. Set your hours each day/week and stick to it.


Be your best friend

Start to see yourself as your friend or loved one. Think about what you say to yourself in your head and consider whether you would say that to your friend. If you wouldn’t, it’s definitely time to be kinder to yourself. Consider writing down the encouraging comments you would make to friends when they were struggling with a task and display these affirmations around your workspace.  


Mistakes are good

We tell our pupils all the time that it’s okay to make mistakes, but we’re not always living that truth. Mistakes are opportunities to learn. If you make a mistake and someone calls you on it, thank them, learn from it and move on. You’ll look back and see the beauty in the mistakes you’ve made, and most importantly, the world won’t end.



It may feel like the latest wellbeing buzzword, but there’s a lot of merit in taking self-care seriously, especially as a perfectionist. Investing in self-care is a way of tackling the low self-esteem that can come from being a perfectionist: take a bath, fence out time for a hobby or read a book; whatever it is that makes you feel good about yourself, invest time in that.


Practise saying no

This is a really tough one. School Business Managers want to do a good job, but sometimes that means saying no to the continual stream of requests from your colleagues. You are one person, with only so many hours in the day. Set healthy boundaries and start saying no. It will become easier the more you do it.


The job will get done if it has to

School Business Managers are incredibly capable people. Draw on past experience when you feel overwhelmed with the challenges you’re facing. You’re likely to have completed some pretty insane to-do lists in the past; if you did it then, you can do it now. Take solace in that.


Congratulate yourself on a job well done

Give yourself a bloomin’ good pat on the back when you’ve done a good (not perfect) job. Your job is hard, and you deserve praise from yourself.