Learning about the 3 P’s of Perfectionism

November 28th, 2023 ANGEL TANG, AMFT



What does the term “perfectionism” mean to you? How would you define it in your own words?
In this post we’ll learn about the 3Ps of perfectionism – Procrastination, Paralysis, and People pleasing. And how managing perfectionism can help you live a more fulfilling and vibrant life.


Have you ever felt overwhelmed by wanting to be perfect? Every project you start, you expect it to go perfectly, otherwise it was a complete flop. And it does not matter how much people tell you how great your work is. Ever wondered where our perfectionist thinking came from?

Being a perfectionist myself, I used to wear the label like a badge of honor. And over time, I have learned that the perfectionist label is really a double-edged sword – on the one end, perfectionism motivates hard work, and on the other, perfectionism leads to paralysis and avoiding risk-taking. Have you felt this before? Who’s with me? 

While we may have been perfectionists all our lives, overcoming it will require patience and time. I invite you to seek out a professional mental health provider to discuss ways to reduce the impact of perfectionism in your life, so you may be able to increase positive aspects of life you so deserve!



The 3 P’s of Perfectionism



Pleasing others in your life was a protective mechanism. As children, you may have had the experience of “if I did this perfectly, then my caregiver will ___(insert source of positive attention)___.” And this thinking has brought you success in gaining positive attention, and perhaps this was the only way you could gain positive attention. Seeking approval of others become the driver for anything we do. 

So subconciously, our brains seek more chances for these positive interactions, which can only come if we “do things perfectly“.



“I don’t want to start this project. It’s too much pressure I can’t do it right.”

Perhaps you have had similiar dialogs with yourself.  It could be an art project, a home improvement piece, or a homework assignment, and the thought of your own expectations and your expectation of other’s perception of you leads to a fear of failure. The definition of failure becomes convoluted as time goes on, and you start to think that anything “not perfect” is a “fail”. 


“I cannot afford to take any risks because I don’t know what can happen” and “I’m afraid to fail, so it’s best to stop trying.”

Becoming completely “frozen” with fear of failure becomes the ultimate result of perfectionism, as performing another task just becomes another expectation unmet is too great. 

With compassion, I invite us to approach this with compassion, and acknowledge with gratitude the best job that our brains are doing in response to the life experiences we had.



Check in with yourself.

Hope this post helps shed some light on your own experiences with perfectionism, and gaining some perspective into yourself and others.

While our goals of managing perfectionism is not to make it go away completely at once, because healthy levels lead to healthy motivation and learning new skills, it is important to be aware of our own thoughts, especially the perpetually negative and perfectionist ones, and increase our self-compassion. 



I hope you got some ideas and entertainment through this post. This post is not a replacement for receiving professional mental health help through mental health professionals. If you are struggling with mental health issues or other psychological illness, please seek professional psychotherapy. I would be happy to help! A free consultation is a call away.




Call to schedule a free 15 minutes phone consultation
1241 Carlsbad Village Drive
Suite 202
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Angel Tang, AMFT 137268 is supervised and employed
by Allison Arkfeld, LMFT 118095 at The Cove: Therapy & Coaching