Atelophobia : The Fear of Imperfection | Signs, Causes and How to Manage

Last Update on November 19, 2021 : Published on August 19, 2021

List of Contents

  • What Does ‘Atelophobia’ Mean?
  • Symptoms Of Atelophobia
  • What Might Cause Atelophobia?
  • How To Manage The Fear Of Being Imperfect?
  • Other Self-Help Coping Strategies

Do you fear you’re not good enough? Do you have a fear of being imperfect? Do you fear imperfection?

If your answer is an automatic “yes” to any of these questions, then you may be struggling with ‘Atelophobia’. I mean, we all live with a small kernel of fear of not being perfect but it does not necessarily impact our lives.

For others, this fear can be a debilitating fear termed Atelophobia. Being perfect or rather yet, trying to be perfect is a natural drive but perfectionism is not always healthy. Atelophobia or the fear of imperfection gets worse or becomes troublesome when it causes you to avoid things fearing you’ll do wrong or when it causes you to experience severe emotional distress.

In this article, I’ll be helping you explore what is atelophobia, its signs, the potential causes, and how you can overcome this fear of not being perfect.

What Does ‘Atelophobia’ Mean?

The word Atelophobia comes from the Greek word “Atelos” meaning “imperfect”. In simple words, Atelophobia is the fear of being imperfect. People with this feat are constantly worried that they might do something wrong or imperfect.

Such people also have irrational standards set for themselves – in professional and personal lives – to achieve perfection. If and when these irrational standards are not met, they experience negative emotions that may cause them severe distress.

Atelophobia causes people to be scared of making mistakes, fearing they would mess up everything. Living in this constant fear can be exhausting.

If this fear is left unchecked, it might lead you to develop anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

Symptoms Of Atelophobia

Atelophobia has mental, emotional, and physical symptoms that you need to look out for:

Mental Symptoms

  • Trouble focusing on things other than the fear
  • Feeling detached from the world around you
  • Extreme fear of failing
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Low self-worth
  • Feeling extreme disappointment if faced with failure
  • Having a pessimistic view of life
  • Anticipating negative consequences every time
  • Being unrealistic in certain situations

Emotional Symptoms

  • Constantly worrying about everything
  • Having an overwhelming sense of dread
  • Displaying negative emotions such as anger, hurt, disappointment
  • Flight response triggered when faced with mild inconveniences
  • Sudden panic or anxiety attacks

Physical Symptoms

  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Panic
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Insomnia
  • Chest pains
  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Numbness
  • Dry mouth

What Might Cause Atelophobia?

There are no exact causes of atelophobia but it can be speculated that this fear can be a result of learned behavior during childhood and teenage years. For example; parents giving everything their child wants to please them.

This fear can also stem from childhood trauma or negative memory. Sometimes, past experiences may also contribute to atelophobia.

Another potential cause of why people experience atelophobia can be the pressure to be perfect from parents, teachers, or friends. The need to be perfect can impact a child’s mental and emotional state giving rise to the fear of being imperfect.

Signs of atelophobia to keep in mind:

  • You are afraid to make mistakes
  • Your standards are impossible to meet
  • You’d rather do nothing than do something incorrectly or below standard
  • You avoid situations where you might make a mistake
  • Your fear rules your life and affects your normal functioning

How To Manage The Fear Of Being Imperfect?

As with the other fears and disorders, the treatment for atelophobia depends on the severity of the phobia. However, there are treatments such as CBT, Exposure therapy, and medications available to help overcome atelophobia.

1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

One of the most recommended therapies, CBT or cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you recognize the source of your fear while learning to gain control over them. This therapy can also help you change your negative thoughts to positive ones.

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2. Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is used to make you focus on what you fear the most. The repeated exposure to your fear can help in managing the fear and eventually learn how to control it. This therapy can take time but with effort and patience, it can help you.

Other Self-Help Coping Strategies

3. Say Goodbye To Negative Emotions

And say yes to happy emotions! Letting go of your negative emotions such as guilt, shame, disappointment can help you move on from your fear of imperfection.

4. Say Yes To Communication

Communication is key! People are not mind-readers so the best thing to do is to let them know how you feel about a situation. If you fear making a mistake, let others know so there are no negative emotions stuck inside you.

5. Stay True To Yourself

Having a fear of not being perfect is not a bad thing. It might be an irrational fear but it’s yours. Accept it and own up to it. Staying true to yourself and your nature is the best thing you can do to manage your fear.

6. Don’t Forget Practicing Mindfulness

Being in the present moment and not worrying about things you can’t control is another thing you can do to manage your fear of imperfection. Couple mindfulness with deep breathing or other relaxation techniques to help you find your center and relax.

7. It’s Okay To Make Mistakes

Please keep in mind that it is okay to make mistakes. We are humans and are naturally flawed. Do not base your self-worth on your failures. The end goal is to enjoy the life you’ve been blessed with. So make mistakes and learn from them but don’t let them rule your life.

Final Thoughts

 “When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is that annoying backseat driver.” – Brene Brown

It is not easy to let go of your fears. The best thing you can do is to not let your fear become larger than you. Feeling overwhelmed when you don’t meet your standards is okay but letting your fear of imperfection rule your life – that’s not okay.

It is important to get the right diagnosis and help from a professional therapist or a counselor. If you’d like to connect with a licensed therapist, you can click here. You can also write to us at for more!

I hope this article helped you understand what atelophobia means, its signs, and how to manage the fear of imperfection. If you found this article helpful, do let us know in the comments below!

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Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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