Dealing with Perfectionism

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In homeschooling my children for nearly six months now, I’ve been able to see more and more of their personality traits and how they handle certain situations.

Big brother is more relaxed.  He enjoys to learn and do his best.  If things don’t turn out exactly how he’s envisioned, he’s pleased to just finish.

Little brother on the other hand is hard on himself.  When we first started school, he didn’t like me to call him smart.  “No I’m not,” he’d say.

The more and more I started to work with him I started to notice that he has perfectionist tendencies.  When he used to color if he felt that he went out of the lines too often, he’d quit.  When I’d give him cutting projects, if they weren’t good enough cuts, he’d quit.  These were his own expectations, not mine.  

I was pleased with how much he was learning.  Matching his colors, recognizing his alphabets and their sounds.  He is so smart so where on Earth did he pick up this trait of perfectionism?

From his mami… me.

This trait of perfectionism was passed down, I believe, through both of my parent to me.  It seems to have fallen upon me more so than my sisters.

I’ve always been called a perfectionist in my creative side. I have been drawing since I was the age of 7 or 8.  My father, also an artist and creative, would find me illustrations to copy by sight.  He taught me proportion and measurements and would critique my work.  If it was off, he’d let me know it.

“The hands are a bit off.”  He’d show me where I went wrong and I’d rework my piece until it was perfect.  Literally, perfect.

This trait was instilled in me and I continued in this state through junior high, high school, and college art classes.  I was very hard on myself and wanted to make sure that when I had a medium in hand it led to something that looked professional.  Abstraction was not my game.

In College, I took one painting class which led to my first oil painting.

A replica of David’s, The Death of Marat.

I can tell you every single piece of my replica that is not perfect.  So, that was my first and last painting. 

In fear of failure and not being able to paint as well as I think I should be able to, I stopped.

This same mentality has carried through to graphic design, however, I feel much safer in this area.  It’s easier to mess up and fix things on the computer versus fine art.

The same with my blog, it’s photography, and any creative endeavors I’ve tried to pursue.  If they don’t meet my expectations, I quit.

Perfectionist personality traits

Being a perfectionist is more hindering than anything else.  I’ve learned that unlike an over achiever, many of our goals are not met because they are not good enough within our own eyes.  Below are some personality traits of a perfectionist that I’ve realized I carry.

  • All or nothing mentality – If it’s not good enough, we quit.
  • Critical eye – We are critical of our own work and of others.
  • Unrealistic standards
  • Focus on results – Only the end result is seen and the process of getting there is avoided in fear of failure.
  • Depressed by unmet goals
  • Fear of failure
  • Procrastination – perfectionists will sometimes worry so much about doing something imperfectly that they become immobilized and fail to do anything at all!

Unmet goal

Over this past year I have had one major goal in mind.  To finish a book proposal.

It’s been the most difficult endeavor I have done in such a long time.  In speaking to my sister, she asked me, “Why is it taking you so long?”  I looked at her and told her, “Because I’m scared to fail.”

“What if I don’t find an agent… a publisher?”

My sister responded with, “Well, you’ll never know unless you try.”

Less than perfect is okay


Little brother is getting better day by day.  I can call him smart now and he smiles and nods his head.  He colors out of the lines and doesn’t give up.  Each day we remind each other that Bauman’s don’t give up!  We do the best that we can, nothing more.

I’m slowly getting there.  Learning to be okay with less than perfect and continuing in my own goals.

My sisters and family help me along the way and I’m very blessed to have them in my life.

I’ve been praying that God can help me get over this.  That he can show me that there is no such thing as perfect.  Only one person has ever had perfection and that through Him I can do anything.

Praise God for his mercy and love.

Do you battle with perfectionism or have encouraging words to share?  I’d love to hear them :)

21 Responses to "Dealing with Perfectionism"
  1. Jessie says:


    Thanks for sharing this! Very timely. I think that my perfectionism manifests itself differently, but I struggle w/it. I have found that if I think I can get projects done the way I want, then I’ll create this perfect, peaceful little world where there will be no problems. Totally wrong!

    What I am learning is that life is a process. I’m focused on the result – but God is focused on the process. Am I communing w/God in the process. He knows we are dust, the Psalmist says. He wants to walk with us through the process. For some reason, God is all about process. He could make us perfect in a moment, but he chooses to have us work out our salvation in fear & trembling as we live day, by day. So if God is more interested in me being faithful in the process, then I need to give up my stranglehold on the perfect result.

  2. Yissell says:

    Diana, I struggle with the same problem. Most of the time I’m very hard on myself when something doesn’t come the way I expect. I never saw anything wrong with being like that until I had my son. He’s 2 1/2 y.o., and is VERY perfectionist. At this age is very hard to explain that’s perfectly fine to be wrong or make mistakes, he doesn’t understand. He won’t even try new words until he “thinks” he’s pronouncing correctly, then of course, he doesn’t speak much. I keep trying and encouraging him to just be happy with the results, hopefully he will learn. Any ideas on how to handle a perfectionist toddler?
    BTW: Your David’s replica is awesome! Me encanta!

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Yissell, I think as he get’s a little bit older the words will come. My nephew was very similar to that and didn’t like to speak after being corrected on a particular word. Boys are slower to speak but he’ll just need your constant praise and encouragement.

  3. We’re all born with predilections and personality traits that need to be worked on. I’m glad that you are working with the little one to plow forward and that he too is showing you how to break down your own barriers.

  4. Jacque Barsetti says:

    Before I read this I immediately thought of that painting in college. I always thought of you as and all or nothing kinda girl too. Think of your friendships/relationships and activities you do or have done (skating, gardening, cooking, etc). I definitely see the the perfectionist in you. You can overcome it or manage it by giving yourself realistic timelines for all your endeavors. You do have a busy life with family, teaching, blogging, and gardening. When you notice yourself being negative switch to positive thoughts. Remember Diana you’re only human. Love you!

  5. I, too, am a perfectionist and my little girl is as well. I really struggle to lower my expectations and be patient with myself but it is so hard! Thanks for admitting that you wrestle with this too.

  6. Tricia Watson says:

    Very well written. Me all the way!

  7. Chrissy L says:

    Boy can I relate! I struggle with perfectionism all the time and dwell on the smallest of details. I finally had to seek professional help when my perfectionism started manifesting itself in the form of panic attacks. The straw that broke the camels back and made me see that I needed help was working with my oldest in our homeschooling endeavors. He would do exactly as you say, make it perfect or quit. It tore me up and I was at a loss for how to handle the anger, frustration, and tears that followed anything that didn’t just come easy to him. We are still working on things (I’d love to hear some of the ways you guys get through these situations) but he understands that I know how he feels and am still a work in progress as well.

  8. krisha says:

    A little saying from Joyce Meyer, “Do your best and God will make up the rest”. Slowly I have learned that my best is good enough and things get done when they get done and I am tired of stressing over them. Life has become too short (I’m getting older) to worry about all this insanity of perfecting things. It’s been a journey to get here and I still struggle sometimes – but you’re right, Jessie, when I ask God to help, He is there. Blessings!!

  9. Thanks Jacque! I love you to girl!!!

  10. Gracie says:

    Perfectionist children may have anxiety and fear over performing at a less than perfect level. They may even avoid new experiences for fear of failure. Parents of perfectionists must teach their children to accept themselves to avoid the detrimental effects that results from perfectionism..

  11. I was intrigued by the title of this post, I think all women suffer from this tendency. Those that don’t have worked through it.

    My perfectionism peaked in my early twenties. Luckily, I was forced to deal with it, and a few other problems at the same time. But it has taken many more years to find peace with the notion of “good enough”.

    I also have a child that displays a very strong tendency towards certain behaviour. Like me, perfectionism may only be part of the package that makes up her uniqueness. I say that quite tongue in cheek.

    Thank-you for this post. It helps to be reminded of these kinds of things and not tuck them away as dirty secrets, which I think people tend to do.

  12. Paloma says:

    I read your post and loved it… very honest and heartfelt… thanks for sharing with all of us… what can I say? I am a perfectionist myself… I go into things with everything but then I can’t stand making mistakes or not getting the results I expected… and I quit… But seeing your painting taught me so much! Who are we to be that selfish (I am not saying you are but… just think about it) to be that selfish and think only of our own satisfaction or dissatisfaction and keep the world from enjoying our art, voice, talents in general! It is hard when we see our own children struggle with things we have struggled, I wish I could remove the bad in my daughters that I see they got from me or their daddy… but like others have said … That’s where GOD comes in, at least for His Children! What great hopes we have in Him… that HE IS perfect and He never changes! and when we fail and when we are weak that’s when His perfection and strength come and we realize we need Him…. anyway… I think I started ranting here… I feel like saying so much… I had actually read this post when you had just published it but there is a lot going through my head thinking about it all that i think it would require a whole conversation… :) But… you are definitely not alone… :)

  13. Great article. I never thought I was a perfectionist until now. So that’s the reason I procrastinate and quit? And you’re right about the blog thing. I’ve changed it up again. Im just thankful I haven’t gotten a tattoo. I know I can’t commit to one I like. Thanks for the blog.

  14. Oh…by the way…I like you’re painting WAY better. Looks awesome.

  15. Diana, what a great post. I also struggle with perfectionism and I have learned over the years that all it has given me is the inability to experience long-lasting joy, or do something just for the sake of enjoyment. Everything is such an ordeal and I am so focused on the end result that the whole journey often gets lost.And the journey is often the most important thing! I am still working through these issues…

  16. Danelle says:

    Diana- this is me too. And then I feel like a failure for quitting too.

    I have a finished book and just keep putting off sending it out.

    I have a magazine request I have ignored for 13 years.

    I dropped a blog because it wasn’t going well and ever though no one has posted for 2 years it still gets traffic. Blah.

    I need to get out of this rut too.

  17. I’ve thought and written a lot about how perfectionism has affected my experiences in the kitchen – both my attempts to learn how to cook and my eating habits. The techniques for changing perfectionist thinking outlined in the book Learned Optimism by Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman really have inspired me a lot. Dr. Seligman also has a book specifically geared towards teaching children to build an optimistic outlook on life.

  18. Nathalie says:

    I struggle with this too. Your list captures my perfectionism traits, to which I would add: self-worth measured in attaining the unrealistic standards I set for myself. As in, if it’s not good enough, then I’m not good enough. It’s a constant battle to remind myself to take a step back and judge myself and my work as if it was my friend instead of me.

    I only recently started praying due to a tragedy in my life, but it helps in other aspects of my life as well. I was raised an atheist so it’s not something that comes naturally for me, and a process as well. Don’t really know were to begin with religion and spirituality, but praying to something is soothing.

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