The Connection Between Perfectionism and People Pleasing: A Psychologist's Perspective

In this blog post, we will explore the link between perfectionism and people pleasing, understand more about each of these traits, and discuss strategies to overcome them.


Kaylee Procter

3/19/20245 min read

Perfectionism and people pleasing are two traits that often go hand in hand, creating a complex dynamic that can have a significant impact on our lives. As a Registered Psychologist in Calgary, I have observed how these two traits can intertwine and contribute to feelings of stress, anxiety, and self-doubt. In this blog post, we will explore the link between perfectionism and people pleasing, understand more about each of these traits, and discuss strategies to overcome them.

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is the relentless pursuit of flawlessness and the belief that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. Individuals who struggle with perfectionism set impossibly high standards for themselves and often experience intense self-criticism when they fall short of these expectations. They may constantly seek validation and approval from others, striving to be seen as flawless in every aspect of their lives, and link their self-worth to their accomplishments.

Those struggling with perfectionism may also feel that they are under crippling pressure and expectations from others including, authority figures at work, parents, friends, romantic partners. They may also set unattainable standards for others.

This drive for perfection can stem from various sources, such as societal pressures, upbringing, or personal experiences. While striving for excellence can be a positive trait, perfectionism takes it to an extreme, leading to chronic dissatisfaction, anxiety, a fear of failure, interpersonal issues, and symptoms of depression.

What is People Pleasing?

People pleasing, on the other hand, is a tendency to prioritize the needs and wants of others over one's own. Those who engage in people pleasing often go to great lengths to avoid conflict, seeking validation and acceptance from others by constantly seeking their approval. They may find it challenging to say "no" or assert their own boundaries, as their self-worth is often tied to the approval and acceptance they receive from others.

Similar to perfectionism, people pleasing can have its roots in childhood experiences or societal expectations. The fear of rejection or disapproval can drive individuals to prioritize the needs of others, often at the expense of their own well-being and personal growth.

To learn more about people pleasing, click here for a previous blog post.

The Link Between Perfectionism and People Pleasing

Perfectionism and people pleasing often go hand in hand, creating a destructive cycle that reinforces each other. The desire to be seen as perfect leads perfectionists to seek constant validation and approval from others, fuelling their people-pleasing tendencies. Conversely, people pleasers may feel the need to be perfect in order to avoid disappointing others or facing rejection.

This combination can be particularly challenging, as the pursuit of perfection is often unattainable, leading to a constant feeling of falling short. This can further reinforce the need to please others, as individuals hope that by meeting others' expectations, they will finally feel worthy and accepted.

Breaking Free from Perfectionism and People Pleasing

While overcoming perfectionism and people pleasing may not happen overnight, there are strategies that can help individuals break free from these patterns and cultivate a healthier mindset. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Notice when your Inner Critic is at Play

Perfectionism is often fuelled by an inner critic that constantly berates and judges our every move. Start by becoming aware of this critical voice and noticing whether its expectations are realistic or not. Remind yourself that nobody is perfect, and that making mistakes is a natural part of growth and learning.

2. Set Realistic Goals and Expectations

Instead of striving for perfection, set realistic and achievable goals for yourself. Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps, and celebrate your progress along the way. Focus on SMART goals:

Specific Actions: make sure it's specific (ex. I will complete ____ task at 10:30am tomorrow morning)

Motivated by Values: make sure the goal aligns with how you want to show up in your life.

Adaptive: ensure that the goal will make your life better in some way.

Realistic: set goals that are attainable versus not (ex. completing 10 tasks that each take one hour likely isn't attainable to complete in one day).

Time-framed: make sure there is a time frame attached to the goal for when you will complete it by.

Above all, remember that progress is more important than perfection.

3. Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Ask yourself, "if a friend were saying the same things to themselves/expecting this of themselves, what would you say to that friend?" Say the same thing to yourself.

Acknowledge that our imperfections are what make us unique as humans. They do not define our worth as a person and they only make us more interesting.

4. Learn to Say "No"

Practice asserting your boundaries and learn to say "no" when necessary. Recognize that it is okay to prioritize your own needs and well-being. Setting healthy boundaries is essential for maintaining healthy relationships and preventing burnout.

A helpful skill for declining requests is to use the following as a guideline: state an empathic response prior to declining the request (ex. I know that you're overwhelmed with your workload right now, which must be difficult. At this time, I'm unable to take on any more work."

5. Notice the Rules that you have for yourself regarding Pleasing Others and Attaining Perfection

Reflect on what rules you've created for yourself that maintain your perfectionism and people pleasing tendencies. Some examples of these are, "I need to be perfect," "I can't make a mistake," "If I make a mistake, no one will like me," or "If I say no to others then I am not a good ____."

Notice that these rules are present and that you can choose whether or not to live by them. How can you shift these rules to make them more self-compassionate? Defuse from these rules by acknowledging and then reflecting on how they are having a negative impact on your life.

6. Seek Support

Consider seeking support from a Registered Psychologist who can provide guidance and help you navigate through the challenges of perfectionism and people pleasing. They can offer valuable insights and strategies tailored to your specific needs.


The link between perfectionism and people pleasing is a complex one, often leading to feelings of stress, anxiety, and self-doubt. By understanding the underlying causes and implementing strategies to overcome these tendencies, individuals can break free from the cycle and cultivate a healthier mindset. Remember, progress and self-acceptance are more important than striving for an unattainable ideal.

As a Calgary Registered Psychologist, I encourage you to take the first step towards self-compassion and personal growth. Embrace your imperfections, set realistic goals, learn to say "no," and prioritize your own well-being. You deserve to live a life that is authentic and true to yourself.

Tri Lotus Psychotherapy provides therapy to those struggling with people pleasing or perfectionistic tendencies. Psychotherapy is provided by someone who is a recovering people pleaser/perfectionist and is trained in this speciality; therefore, will understand your struggles, as well as how to help them. Reach out today to book an appointment or complimentary introductory call to see how we can help.