According to Webster’s dictionary, one common definition of perfectionism is “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.”

While it is great to aim high in life, perfectionism can be very inhibiting and limiting. It can create a cycle of self-judgement and failure. Perfectionism has been associated with poor self-confidence, self-esteem and depression.


– Perfectionism can develop as a defense against poor organization, poor time management, and impulsivity common with AD/HD.
– Perfectionism can be a form of obsessiveness, a characteristic commonly co-occurring with AD/HD.
– Perfectionism is one among several factors that can contribute to procrastination, a behavior common among individuals with AD/HD.


According to one source, “If you’re wondering whether or not you’re a perfectionist, there’s a good chance you are one, at least to a degree.”

Here are some other questions to consider:

– Do I feel like a failure because I am just not getting everything done right?

– Do I only evaluate the results of a project or assignment, or do I enjoy the process of working on it?

– Do I tend to procrastinate because my goals seem hard to reach?

– Am I very sensitive to and defensive about criticism and critique?

– Do I tend to be judgmental of myself and others?

To learn more, take a short quiz on perfectionism.


Take heart! Perfectionism can be tackled!

– First: Become aware of your perfectionist tendencies. Take the quiz (above). Try to notice where perfectionism catches you up each day at work, home or in relationships. For example, where do you experience a sense of failure or of not being good enough? Where do you find yourself avoiding a project or forward action?

– Second: Ready to work on your perfectionism? Take it a step at a time. Pick one small area in which you will tackle perfectionism first. Identify a goal for the week. Now, cut that goal in half. Divide that new, adjusted goal into five small action steps for the week. By the end of the week, check in with yourself to see if you’ve accomplished three of them. Yes? Good work! You are moving forward! No need for perfection here. What did you enjoy about working on these steps?

– Third: Work on self-talk. If you are critical of yourself, your stress will increase.
Cultivate a sense of lightness and even humor about your mistakes. Some phrases that might help: “I can go for the Bronze, I don’t need the Gold every time!”, “Good enough is good enough!”, even “Better late than never!” Want to really chuckle at yourself? Try: “I’m a super non-perfectionist this time!” or “Oopsi doopsie!” (Who couldn’t laugh when saying “Oopsi doopsie!”?)

– Fourth: To better accept criticism, try taking notes when someone is offering you input or critiquing your work. This can help with a sense of distance. Put the notes away to review when you feel less defensive. Remind yourself that mistakes are an important part of learning. If you need to respond to the critique, try: “Thanks for the input. I’ll get back to you later on this.”

– Fifth: Continue to learn more about perfectionism (see resources below)… and celebrate your progress!

If you need more help addressing challenges of AD/HD and perfectionism or procrastination, contact an AD/HD coach!


A quick video:

Perfection Paralyzes

Some articles:

How Adults with AD/HD can let go of Perfectionism

Overcoming Perfectionism

A book:

Allan Mallinger & and Jeannette DeWyze’s Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control

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