How To Overcome Perfectionism

Magoz - How to overcome perfectionism. Animation
Written by Magoz
5 min read 1.8m views 85 comments

I’ve always been into perfectionism and happy to define myself as a perfectionist.

In fact, perfectionism has been my driving force to learn and evolve.

But after all these years becoming more and more obsessed with details, I’ve reached a point where extreme perfectionism has become a burden. It has made me slow, insecure of my own work and afraid to move forward.

Here are some of my thoughts about fighting against perfectionism.

The Fallacy of Perfection

Perfection doesn’t exist. It’s like the horizon line. You move one step forward, and it moves as well. It’s unreachable. You can always find more ways to polish and refine something. The process never ends.

Also, as you move towards perfection, you learn new things and your previous idea of perfection becomes obsolete.

Perfection is a direction, not a destination.

Some Tips to Overcome Perfectionism

  • Apply the 80/20 rule
    Invest 20% of your time and effort on 80% of outcome, not the opposite. After a while, perfectionism is not useful anymore, and pursuing it will be unproductive and detrimental to the project itself.
    This powerful and interesting rule is also known as the Pareto Principle: for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
  • Be aware of the perfectionism trap
    I have made this mistake numerous times: I get excited about something, I start working on it, investing hours and hours perfecting it, and then realize that I don’t need it. Improving and perfecting can eclipse the real purpose of creating something, so be careful not to lose the point.
  • Don’t allow perfectionism to remove the personality
    Sometimes perfectionism tends to make things cold and impersonal. Your personal characteristics are what makes you, you (even though you may think they are imperfections). Don’t try to get rid of them–they are your strengths.
  • Establish realistic expectations
    It’s easy to dream with the moon and think that’s the only acceptable outcome. Don’t allow perfectionism to set unrealistic expectations–it’s a recipe for failure (or even worse, a recipe for never finishing what you are working on). Instead, try to establish realistic expectations that you can accomplish, while still pushing yourself to excellence.
  • Launch and improve it afterwards
    If the project allows it (a personal digital project, your website, an ebook, etc.), just work on a viable first version (or minimum viable product) and launch it. You can keep improving and updating it.

An Inspiring Example

I don’t remember where I read this story first, but it has been in my mind since then. I read it whenever I feel trapped by perfectionism.

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.

All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.

Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

 — Art & Fear. Ted Orland.

I’ve always preferred quality vs quantity, but I now realize it’s not always the smart choice, especially when it comes to creating or learning.


Perfectionism requires hard work and helps to develop judgment. The right amount of perfectionism makes you better because you constantly question and challenge yourself to improve.

But if you cross the line and become obsessed with perfectionism, you stop producing and you may end up not finishing anything. By focusing on production rather than perfection, you will likely yield better results in the end.

Perfectionism must be understood as a direction, not a destination.

As always, I would love to hear your comments!

PS: My online course Strategy & Business for Illustrators is now available for pre-order!


Nomadic illustrator. Thinker. Seeker.


    • E
      Elizabeth Rivera

      Thank you. Who was it that advised artists to keep doing art while others decide whether it’s good or bad, just keep doing it? Sometimes, we forget. So, thanks again for your words: “Perfection is a direction, not a destination.” I should have them engraved and hanged on the studio wall to read them every morning and then keep on working.

  1. P

    Hello Magoz, how are you? I am currently in the middle of a personal project and I am stalling because of perfectionism. Your article has reached me at a perfect moment. Curiously, the way I try to overcome my ‘Perfectionist block’ is to work trying not to pay attention to the result. Once I am loose enough I begin working on my project. It works partly, because every day I have to overcome the block, and I don’t have enough time every time to try to overcome it.
    ¡Besos! Y espero el curso.

    • Hi Paola!
      Thanks for sharing your approach. I suspect most of us get blocked because we focus more on the result than on just starting.

      Hope you overcome that block, good luck, my friend!

      And yes, perfectionism kidnapped my course for a while, but not anymore. Hopefully, it won’t take long until I finally launch it :-)

  2. I couldn’t agree more! However, still not that easy to overcome perfectionism and ones own aspiration. Guess it’s a life long learning process.

  3. Fantástico artículo!

    Seguro que lo has escrito de un tirón : )

    • ¡Gracias Alex!
      Sí jejeje, a pesar de que no pude contenerme y me pasé un buen rato editándolo. Poco a poco. Esto de dejar de prestar tanta atención a los detalles va a ser una carrera de fondo :-)

      • cuando se controla la técnica lo que tiene que preocuparte es brillar, y eso se consigue con espontaneidad y naturalidad, no forzado

        gracias a ti! : )

  4. My perfectionist usually blocks me and I need to repeat myself I’m following a unicorn, so thank you for share your experience. I never read the tale before and it seems so useful to don’t forget the risk of the perfectionism.

  5. M

    Hola Magoz,
    Llevo tiempo leyendo tus geniales artículos, pero esta es la primera vez que me atrevo a comentar. Justo lo has publicado cuando he iniciado un reto personal contra mi propio perfeccionismo. Llevo una semana dibujando todos los días en una libreta, sin pensar tanto en el resultado final y con una sola norma: no borrar nada ni arrancar ninguna página (algo que tiendo a hacer cuando dibujo algo no tan perfecto). Aún es pronto para ver los resultados… por ahora me tengo que “morder la lengua” cada vez que pienso en la cantidad de cosas no perfectas que estoy produciendo, jajaja. Pero sé que debo seguir adelante para crecer como artista. Me tranquiliza ver cómo otros creativos también se pueden llegar a encontrar en la misma situación.

    Leeré el libro que mencionas, pues el relato que has compartido me ha parecido muy interesante.

    Un saludo

    • Hola Maria,
      Gracias por animarte a comentar y a compartir tu experiencia.
      Pensar en lo que no hemos hecho por culpa del perfeccionismo es tal vez una de las formas más efectivas de poder “soltarnos” y perder el miedo.

      ¡Ánimo y asuerte con con el reto!

    • M
      Maria Clara

      Hola Maria!! Yo también estoy en la tarea de no romper, no tirar, no dañar ningún dibujo, ya que eso era exactamente lo que hacía. Gracias por contar tu experiencia, porque veo que es un rasgo personal del perfeccionista y en ello voy a trabajar. Gracias, gracias, gracias.

  6. Muy buen artículo. Y excelente recomendación.
    Hay un punto de equilibrio entre la búsqueda de la perfección y el descuido y la regla de Pareto es un buen referente (aunque no debería ser una camisa de fuerza).
    Continúa con estos aportes Magoz, son bien recibidos.

  7. Thanks for this great article! :)

  8. Ha, the topic needs to be reminded every week ;)

  9. Glad to read this article, like all of your inspiring articles! It is true that perfectionism shouldn’t be our destination. Ever since I decided not to be so obsessed with perfection around 3 years ago, my work and personality has moved to a different level!

    Tu labor y aportación en el mundo me fascina a diario! Felices viajes..Gracias Magoz :)

  10. Honestly, you could have ended the article at “Perfection is a direction, not a destination.” I’m glad you didn’t, because it was interesting, but what else does one need to know? Ironically, that sentence sums up the problem and solution perfectly.

    • It was in the original draft, but then I realized I used that sentence at the beginning of the article, when talking about the Perfectionism Fallacy, so I tweaked it a bit:
      Perfectionism must be understood as a direction, not a destination.

  11. Really cool article. Loved the little story to cap it off! I fight with self doubt in my work literally every day! Guess it’s normal haha

    • Thanks for this article man, it really has resonated with me. I’ve always defined myself as a chronic perfectionist, and it really is a pain in the neck, I have to admit that it has killed my happiness in different stages of my life at personal and professional levels, and it’s still doing it. We need to embrace the mistakes even if they’re small and keep going.
      I’ll try to implement your useful tips, thanks again!

    • Thanks Phil! Yeah, definitely, sometimes is good to know that we are not alone.

  12. Ah sí, la “impecabilidad del Guerrero” como decía Don Juan Matus, hacer las cosas lo mejor que uno pueda sabiendo que nada importa, tan solo el hecho de que vamos a morir. Gran artículo querido Maikel ;)

    • ¡Gracias por las bonitas palabras, Oscar! :-)

      • Very well written Magoz! I’m interested to know more about how you found your ‘visual style’ as an illustrator and how that affects the business space you work in. Does the fact that you have a very strong style limit your range of motion or add to it in terms of clients? do you find that only a certain type of client would approach you due to this?

        Would love to hear more about this. Maybe you should write a post about it!

  13. im a visual communication design student…
    that’s just… so relatable, the ceramic teacher analogy just made me realize…… so far im not producing anything yet my friends have pile of works and didn’t concern about perfection.
    thank you so much!

    • That’s exactly my feeling, Naufal. Perfection is the worst enemy of doing and achieving, and we have to fight against it!

  14. Thats a great example in the story. I always get trapped in the perfectionism cycle, this will steer me to freedom.

  15. S

    Such a great article and a reassuring read! Will be saving it for those moments of crushing perfectionism

  16. So true. I struggled with perfectionism in the past but atm thankfully I’m working through it and focusing on producing.

    Great reminder though and always validating to hear others with the same struggles!

    Thank you

    • Thanks for your comment, Sooz. Do you have some extra tips about how are you doing it? :-)

      • I think this video from Jake Parker actually helped me a lot and just discussing that with friends, also encouraging each other to finish things instead of obsessing.

        On a practical note I’m a bit fan of the Kanban workflow so I use post it notes on my wall with three columns; “To do”, “Doing” and “Done”. I try to break down tasks as simple as possible to make them seem more friendly and doable. I think having it there visually in front of me helps me stay focused whenever I get a bit lost :)

  17. R

    Great article, I can relate to it a lot. :)

  18. You opened the Pandora’s box. This is a topic that deserves attention. I have felt and I feel trapped by a stupid perfectionism —stupid because it does not lead me to a better place—. Personally, I’ve been learning to embrace imperfections for a few weeks now and to find a more comfortable, natural, simple way of doing. And the sensations are good, although the road will be long :-D

    In the end, as many people are commenting here, the essence is the important thing. Getting lost in details that do not favour it doesn’t seem productive. In this sense, I am the greatest of sinners! It comforts me to know that I am not the only one affected by this.

    Great article, as usual.

    • Totally agree, my friend. Thanks for sharing your points and personal case.
      Knowing that we are not alone is very empowering to change!

  19. By the way, Magoz. I’m not sure the first link in this post is leading to the desired URL… Is it?

  20. Hola Magoz, en esta ocasión no coincidimos ya que a mí me ocurre todo lo contrario. Por temor a perder la frescura inicial a veces no me paro a pulir detalles y el trabajo queda un poco “cojo”. Soy consciente de que hay que caminar hacia la perfección aunque sin pasarse pero a veces la impaciencia me traiciona porque cuando me paro a perfeccionar los detalles que pueden mejorar un trabajo , éste gana enormemente. Espero que encontremos el término medio donde dicen se encuentra la virtud. Un abrazo, Carmen.

    • Hola Carmen, me refería más bien al peligro de obsesionarse con la perfección, no al hecho de perfeccionar algo. Estoy totalmente de acuerdo en que la impaciencia puede hacer que un resultado no llegue a ser interesante por falta de horas de trabajo.

      ¡Un abrazo!

  21. I must admit that I am a perfectionist. Not for all things, but some. Some great tips that I will be trying.

  22. I don’t need to overcome perfectionism. I’m imperfect!

  23. Hi Magoz,
    I’ve been stuck for a couple months on a personal project i was super excited about. I’ve been focusing too much on details. I was so scared that the end product wouldn’t match my expectations that I ended up not doing the project..imagine!

    • That happens to me as well… all the time!
      At least we are aware of it, the first step to fight the bad side of perfectionism.

  24. R

    I’m really glad to have passed by this article because I thought I’m the only one with the “perfectionism disease”! The problem with perfectionism + a short time frame, it leads to stress and being blocked. I’m not sure how we can overcome that with quantity but maybe we just need to work, work and work. Thank you for sharing!

  25. Thank you for this :)

    It also happens to me that on many occasions I get stuck because of perfectionism. I try to stop and do something else, but I’m not always aware that I have passed the line that separates self impulse from self-pressure.

    Sometimes I started a drawing with pretensions and all the scribbles I made in papers that I had around to try colors or brushes have ended up being better, or more of my taste, or more faithful to me than the drawing that was meant to be final.

    I suppose it is a process that we all have at some point in life and that we are always in time to learn or that wonderful articles like this remind us :)

  26. J

    Thanks – this really spoke to me.

  27. M

    Me encanto el articulo Muchas Gracias por compartir!

  28. tus artículos son siempre espectaculares.
    Gracias :)

  29. Hola Magoz. Genial artículo. Me viene estupendamente. A mi el perfeccionismo no solo me bloquea o hace que me eternice, sino que directamente me paraliza. No me aporta nada positivo. He pasado mucho tiempo considerándolo algo bueno pero me he dado cuenta de que me ha tenido parada gran parte de mi vida. Buscar mejorar y sacar lo mejor de uno mismo es bueno, pero en mi caso, el perfeccionismo ha sido y es solo una forma de evitarme lidiar con el miedo. Mucho tiempo dejando proyectos a medias, dibujos a medias, intenciones a medias… porque me empeño en que tengo que estar hoy en un lugar al que solo podré llegar si trabajo en serio y me doy tiempo. Hace solo unos meses que he empezado a ser capaz de ponerme a trabajar, dejándome de perfeccionismos (irreales). Como decía alguien en otro comentario, es duro hacer cosas que salen “regular” y dejarlas estar, pero gracias a ello sigo dibujando, y además disfruto de hacerlo por primera vez en mucho tiempo, cuando se había convertido casi en una pesadilla para mi. Ahora me pongo manos a la obra con mucha más facilidad y sé que si continúo, mejoraré. Como bien dices, se trata de verlo como un camino y no tanto como un objetivo.

    También es cierto que en cuanto la inseguridad aflora y vuelve el perfeccionismo, me cuesta sacármelo de encima y me roba muchísima fuerza. Cuando se trata de un proyecto algo más ambicioso que un simple dibujo “por placer” mi cabeza empieza a dar vueltas. Ahora estoy inmersa en algo que me tiene bloqueada desde hace un tiempo. Este artículo me ha hecho darme cuenta de que tengo que parar y ver qué puedo hacer con ello para poder avanzar.

    Un saludo, y perdón porque, ¡casi he escrito yo un artículo entero con mi comentario!

  30. Thank you for this post and especially for sharing the story. Improvement really is about quantity and completing your projects. Focusing on completion is a distraction from the “ruining” your work. I also find I need a hard deadline. If I don’t have a deadline or have too much time for a project, the universe is too big and it is difficult to find my direction. When time gets shorter, I become much more creative. Why is that??!

  31. Good job, a very captivating article and thanks for sharing such an alluring blog.

  32. Great post! I have felt stuck so many times searching the perfection, and I just have to produce and produce! Nice recommendation! Thanks Magoz! Your blog is amazing :D

  33. T
    The Domínguez

    Gracias Magoz!!! muy buenas palabras!!! abrazo grande!!

  34. M

    Me encanta el articulo. Y voy a tratar de no olvidarlo. El perfeccionismo siempre a limitado mi trabajo, me frena en numerosas ocasiones y no me deja avanzar, me bloquea. Pero tus palabras me han tocado fondo. Me he visto reflejada en cada uno de los incovenientes que lleva ser demasiado perfeccionista. Me quedo con tu gran reflexión, el perfeccionismo no es un destino, es solo una dirección. Y estoy segura que me va a servir de gran ayuda de ahora en adelante. Gracias!!

  35. A
    Ana Rodríguez Pérez

    This is nice.
    Thanks for sharing it! ;)

  36. Great point of view! Thank You for this blog!

  37. Hey, Magoz, I just want to say you hit a home run with this awesome blog. I use to be a prisoner to perfectionism. While having a little—and I mean only a little—is good, I focus more on having fun and allowing my creative juices to run wild. It has yielded me much better results.

  38. Thank you, I loved the story I’m going to use it. I struggle with the balance between obsessing with details and don’t give too much effort ;(

  39. s

    Lovely article, clear and simple and to the point. Funny how it was interesting and educative for both me (an artist) and my husband (a mathematician). Thank you!

  40. Fantastic Article !!! Perfection is good but not a unique goal

  41. I have a number of aphorisms that pertain, two of which are:

    1. The more stuff you make, the greater the chance that there will be good stuff.
    2. Amateurs wait for genius to occur while the rest of us get busy.
    3. Expect nothing. Be grateful.

  42. Se siento identificada de principio a fin. Me ha dado mucha luz este articulo. Gracias!!!

  43. L

    Oh hi! Your article is very interesting, thank you so much for your words.

  44. A
    Andres Escribano Sanchez-Mellado

    Me gusta el reto que planteas, pero me lleva al cruce de fronteras de un lado y del otro. Creo que lo importante es el proceso, dibujar, dibujar bocetos por ejemplo hasta agotar la idea y de ese trabajo, cual atleta en el gimnasio habrás salido fortalecido y encontrado con un buen resultado.

  45. M
    Maria Fernanda Lira

    Thanks for your text. Perfectionism is like a rock on the road to growth.

  46. I have a dream project. I tried to start it on June of last year, but because I was looking for perfection all my investment of time and money had no use. I did absolutely nothing after all, because I could not reach perfection and it wasn’t enough for me. This year, exactly one week ago, I decided that I would do it anyway, even if people I know would judge me. In the end, it was the best choice. People are loving my project, even with the mistakes. And now I can finally see what you said: “Your personal characteristics are what makes you, you (even though you may think they are imperfections). Don’t try to get rid of them–they are your strengths”.

    Great post, love it and will always read your blog from now on.

  47. Que maravilloso artículo! Cuantas libretas compro y luego me da miedo empezar por no hacer dibujos suficientemente bonitos, al final la libreta se queda triste y sin usar, sería bueno tener un termómetro de perfeccionismo y así saber cuando te estas pasando (aunque el exceso de inseguridad es un buen indicador). Lo dicho genial el artículo gracias.

  48. J

    This is a great article. Really nice analysis and lovely conclusions. Feels as if you were pushing people right into the abyss only for us to find out we always knew how to fly.

  49. Thank you so much for sharing this! It is super inspiring! As a beginner I always felt hesitated to create my own work and post it because of self doubting…think too much if I’m not good enough to start. ..But now I just realized doing is better than pondering.

  50. Really nice post! Direction in stead of destination. It can be your master or your slave, right? I like the realness of your post, perfectionism is not just bad or not just awesome to have, just as it is. I also think there is a distinction between wanting perfection and believing you can achieve it. And for perfection I take: achieving what you really, unrealisticly (for the mind), want in your life. Some sort of other definition for perfection, cause as you said already, it doesn’t really exist. Thanks for your writings!

  51. Thank you for this inspiring article !

  52. perfectionism tends to make things cold and impersonal. Your personal characteristics are what make you, you (even though you may think they are imperfections). Don’t try to get rid of them–they are your strengths.

    I am inspired by these lines.

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