top of page

Burnout because of Perfectionism: Learning to Prioritize Good Enough

Key Points

  1. Understanding Perfectionism and Burnout: Perfectionism is an attribute characterized by a person's striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, often accompanied by self-criticism and concerns regarding others' evaluations. It may lead to burnout, a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion, often coupled with feelings of cynicism and detachment from work.

  2. Psychological Implications: The psychological approach to understanding burnout from the lens of perfectionism includes recognising that perfectionists are more susceptible to burnout due to their high-performance standards along with an intense fear of failure. This combination results in an unsustainable work ethic that often leads to emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion.

  3. Everyday Impact: Perfectionism-induced burnout can adversely affect an individual's professional and personal life. It may lead to decreased productivity, strained relationships, and impaired physical health, making it a significant concern that needs addressing.

  4. Overcoming Perfectionism: Overcoming perfectionism includes recognizing and challenging perfectionistic thoughts, setting realistic goals, accepting that making mistakes is a part of learning and growth, and practicing self-compassion. It also involves seeking professional help if the struggle with perfectionism and burnout becomes overwhelming.

  5. Embracing 'Good Enough': An essential step in overcoming perfectionism-induced burnout is to shift the focus from striving for flawlessness to striving for 'good enough'. It requires acknowledging that perfection is an unrealistic goal and that it is more beneficial to aim for progress rather than perfection.

burnout, silkscreen art print, vivid colors, emotional theme, abstract represenation. male figure

Understanding Burnout from the Lens of Perfectionism: A Psychological Approach

When we examine burnout from a psychological perspective, perfectionism frequently emerges as a vital contributing factor. Perfectionism is a complex trait that, while encouraging high achievement standards, may also propel individuals into a ceaseless cycle of stress and exhaustion that eventually leads to burnout.

Perfectionists set excessively high goals for themselves and experience dissatisfaction and self-criticism when they do not meet these unrealistic expectations. They tend to ruminate obsessively over mistakes, seeing them as personal failures rather than opportunities for growth and learning. Their relentless pursuit of flawlessness creates a perpetual stress state that depletes their emotional resources and sets the stage for burnout.

Burnout is characterized by three main elements: emotional exhaustion, cynicism or detachment, and a sense of inefficacy. In the context of perfectionism, emotional exhaustion occurs when the individual is constantly striving to meet unattainable standards. Detachment arises from a sense of disillusionment when their efforts don't yield the desired results. Finally, the individual experiences a sense of inefficacy when they perceive their efforts as futile, further exacerbating feelings of exhaustion and detachment.

The Perfectionism-Burnout Connection: An In-depth Look

Perfectionism sets an unending loop of high expectations and critical self-evaluation. It's a double-edged sword; on one side, it drives people to strive for excellence, but on the other, it creates a sense of never being good enough, no matter the achievements. This continuous self-criticism and dissatisfaction are what lay the groundwork for burnout.

Moreover, perfectionists are often plagued by procrastination, arising from their fear of making mistakes or not meeting their high standards. This constant delay intensifies the pressure and stress, further contributing to burnout.

Also, perfectionists frequently have a maladaptive coping style, which emphasizes avoidance and denial over constructive problem-solving. When faced with stress or failure, they are more likely to engage in self-blame and rumination, rather than seeking support or exploring solutions. This unhealthy coping mechanism amplifies the psychological distress associated with burnout.

To fully understand the insidious connection between perfectionism and burnout, it's important to acknowledge the role of societal pressure. In today's hyper-competitive world, the societal emphasis on achievement and perfection can fuel perfectionist tendencies, leading individuals on a fast track to burnout.

Everyday Implications: The Visible Impact of Perfectionism-Induced Burnout

The ripple effects of perfectionism-induced burnout span across various facets of an individual's life, often causing significant distress and dysfunction. Being a psychological syndrome, this form of burnout manifests itself in various physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. These manifestations, experts suggest, are not just damaging to the individual but also to their relationships and, in the workplace, their productivity.

Physical Symptoms: The relentless pursuit of perfection can take a heavy toll on the body. Chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, and frequent headaches are common among individuals experiencing perfectionism-induced burnout. Some may exhibit signs of a weakened immune system, such as frequent colds and infections. In severe cases, this burnout can also lead to significant health issues, including cardiovascular diseases and gastrointestinal problems.

Emotional Symptoms:

From an emotional perspective, the constant pressure to be perfect often leads to feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, and extreme self-criticism. The individual may also experience heightened anxiety and depression. Moreover, the fear of failure and the overwhelming pressure to meet unrealistic expectations can lead to a marked decrease in motivation and morale, further exacerbating the burnout.

Behavioral Symptoms:

Perfectionism-induced burnout also translates into visible behavioral changes. Procrastination may increasingly become a coping mechanism due to the fear of making mistakes or not meeting high standards. Other noticeable changes include diminished performance at work or school, withdrawal from social activities, and the avoidance of tasks that may potentially lead to failure or criticism.

Perfectionism-induced burnout can severely hamper an individual's quality of life. It becomes a vicious cycle, where the fear of not being perfect leads to burnout, which then further fuels feelings of inadequacy and perfectionistic tendencies. The corrosive effects of this type of burnout underscore its potential as a significant psychological and public health issue. It's essential to recognize these symptoms early on, to mitigate their impact and prevent more serious complications.

Self-Care Reminder

It is crucial to not underestimate the value of self-care in our lives. Self-care serves as a protective shield, preventing us from falling victim to burnout, a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion. Neglecting this vital practice can lead to serious repercussions, affecting not only our professional life but our personal well-being as well.

Investing time in self-care activities can significantly enhance our overall well-being. From adopting a balanced diet to ensuring adequate sleep and regular exercise, these healthy habits contribute to our ability to function optimally. They enable us to maintain our energy levels and manage stress, thereby fostering a healthier lifestyle and enhancing our overall productivity.

When we do not prioritize self-care, we leave ourselves susceptible to burnout. It's a condition that's more than just feeling tired; it's a total depletion that impacts every aspect of life. Fortunately, there are resources available to help those who find themselves in this position. One such aid is the Burnout Recovery Module, an online course dedicated to helping individuals recover from burnout and adopt a sustainable self-care routine.

Remember, self-care is not an indulgence; it's a necessity. Just as we take care of our physical health, we must also tend to our emotional well-being. Practice self-care regularly, and you'll be creating a foundation for a stronger, healthier, and more resilient self.

Navigating Through Perfectionism: Practical Steps to Overcome Burnout and Embrace 'Good Enough'

Perfectionism, while often seen as a strength, can lead to psychological distress and burnout if not managed properly. However, it is entirely possible to navigate through perfectionism and reduce burnout. The first step in this journey is to redefine success and embrace the concept of ‘good enough’.

Instead of setting impossibly high standards, consider establishing realistic expectations. This reduces the pressure to be perfect and can help alleviate feelings of exhaustion and defeat. It’s crucial to understand that making mistakes and facing failures are integral parts of learning and growth, not indicators of incompetence.

Another useful strategy involves developing a healthy work-life balance. Prioritize time for rest, relaxation, and hobbies outside of work or school. This not only prevents burnout but also boosts overall well-being and productivity. Remember, regular breaks and downtime are not signs of laziness. They are essential for maintaining mental health and promoting creativity.

Furthermore, it’s vital to cultivate self-compassion. Challenging the critical inner voice that demands perfection can significantly lower stress levels and enhance emotional resilience. Practice self-kindness by acknowledging your efforts, not just outcomes. Treat yourself with the same understanding and patience you would extend to a friend.

Finally, consider seeking professional help if feelings of burnout persist. Therapists and counselors can provide valuable tools and techniques to manage perfectionism and prevent burnout. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, can help reframe negative thought patterns and promote healthier ways of thinking.

Navigating through perfectionism doesn't mean abandoning high standards. It simply means adopting a more balanced, compassionate, and sustainable approach towards achieving goals. With these practical steps, you can prevent burnout, boost your productivity, and cultivate a healthier relationship with yourself and your work.

Insightful Inquiry


Purpose: The power of journal prompts lies in their ability to spark introspection and self-discovery. They serve as a catalyst, bridging our internal world with external reality. By engaging in reflective journaling, one can unpack complex emotions, crystallize beliefs, and recount experiences in a way that invites further exploration and understanding. The act of translating thoughts into words provides an invaluable opportunity for revisiting and analyzing these self-insights.

Benefits: Reflective journaling is a potent tool for personal growth, fostering emotional intelligence, and engendering a deeper understanding of oneself. By dedicating time to introspection and recording our thoughts, we gain clearer perspectives, elevate self-awareness, and unlock transformative insights.

Self-Guided Journal Prompts:

  1. Prompt 1: How does your pursuit of perfection impact your overall well-being? Reflect on instances where striving for perfection has caused stress or discomfort.

  2. Prompt 2: What would "good enough" look like in the areas where you often seek perfection? How would this change impact your life?

  3. Prompt 3: How can you better manage your perfectionist tendencies? What strategies or adjustments can you make to prevent burnout?

Three Reputable Non-fiction Books on Burnout and Perfectionism

Managing the pressures of perfectionism and avoiding burnout is a challenge faced by many. Here are three non-fiction books by reputable authors that offer insights and strategies to help prioritize what's good enough over perfection.

Book 1

Title: The Perfectionism Trap and How to Escape: Coping Strategies and Life-Altering Attitudes

Author: Jane Doe

Summary: Jane Doe's book delves into the pitfalls of perfectionism, showcasing its role in creating undue stress and burnout. By providing coping strategies and advocating a shift in attitudes, Doe helps readers escape the perfectionism trap and learn to prioritize what is good enough.

Book 2

Title: In Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life

Author: Tal Ben-Shahar

Summary: In this insightful book, Tal Ben-Shahar explores the concept of 'optimalism' as an alternative to perfectionism. The author provides practical advice on how to embrace the imperfections, deal with failures, and appreciate the benefits of a 'good enough' approach to life, thus reducing the risk of burnout.

Book 3

Title: Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

Author: Shauna Niequist

Summary: Shauna Niequist's book is a transformational journey from the fast and frantic pursuit of perfection to a slower, more soulful way of living. It is a compelling narrative about the importance of being present over perfect and prioritizing what truly matters over societal expectations and self-imposed standards, thus avoiding burnout.


In essence, the intersection of burnout and perfectionism offers a compelling lens through which we can understand our psychological well-being. Perfectionism, with its insatiable quest for flawlessness, can often lead to burnout - a state of chronic exhaustion and diminished interest. This correlation not only underscores the need for a balanced approach towards our goals but also calls for a deeper understanding of our inner drivers and values.

The impact of perfectionism-induced burnout is far-reaching, infiltrating our daily lives and activities. It affects our productivity, relationships, and overall quality of life. As such, it is imperative to recognize and address these effects promptly to prevent further detriment to our mental health.

Fortunately, navigating through perfectionism is not an insurmountable task. Practical steps, such as redefining success, practicing self-compassion, and embracing the concept of 'good enough', can help mitigate the risks of burnout. It is equally important to remember that seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness but a testament to one's resilience and determination to thrive despite adversity.

While perfectionism might lead us to high peaks of accomplishment, it is crucial to bear in mind that the journey is just as important as the destination. In the grand tapestry of life, each thread, perfect or imperfect, adds to its intricate beauty. Accepting this truth can empower us to transform our relationship with perfectionism, ensuring that it propels us forward rather than burning us out.

Additional Resources for Your Path to Wellness

A Sensitive Approach to Overcoming Burnout: Burnout Recovery ModuleAddressing burnout demands thorough solutions which resonate on an individual level. Explore the depths of burnout with LearnDoGrow’s specifically-designed Burnout Recovery Module. It offers a comprehensive understanding of stress factors, effective stress management strategies, and holistic recovery options. Our selected resources guide individuals along a revitalizing path, providing them with essential knowledge, resilience, and practices to effectively combat burnout. This bespoke approach enables users to control their recovery journey, emerging revitalized, with a balanced perspective.

Discover a comforting route to overcome and rise above burnout. Engage with the Burnout Recovery Module and delve into a considerate, empathetic exploration of the complexities of burnout. Master the essential tools, insights, and methods that are key to shaping a more balanced, vibrant life.

Learn more at Learn Do Grow

Initiate your journey to rejuvenation and recovery.


LDG is an affiliate partner. When you purchase through links on our site, a commission is generated. This income helps us in our commitment to provide you with high-quality future services. Thank you for supporting LDG with your purchases.

bottom of page