Posted by: Donna Cunningham | April 8, 2016

Pluto in Capricorn and Pernicious Perfectionism vs.Positive Perfectionism

(c)4-8-16 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

Note: This was originally written several years ago, when Pluto was first making itself known in Capricorn. Now it’s a bigger and bigger part of how we approach our careers–and, unfortunately, how we judge ourselves and others.  It seems worth repeating.

Pernicious perfectionism—doesn’t that have a ring to it? It rings, all right, but not the kind of bell you want to hear in the midst of trying to present your work to the world in a positive light. More like a warning bell, perhaps, or a closing bell. The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines pernicious as destructive or deadly, but often in a covert way that is not readily observed.

One of the more grating qualities of transiting Pluto in perfectionistic Capricorn that I notice often is a sort of snobbish—no, wait, I mean snotty—perfectionism and rush to judgment. If something a person does or offers isn’t a state-of-the-art in presentation or operation, it’s summarily dismissed without trying to absorb the material.

It’s like attending to the Oscars in a dress that’s off the rack because you can’t afford a designer dress, and being snubbed, despite the fact that you’ve turned in a brilliant performance that got you nominated. And then Joan Rivers mocks you on Fashion Police.

I guess that transit is the reason I spent the last two and half months updating all my e-books and giving them killer covers. I don’t want my work judged because of the cover, and, believe me, readers do that today.  My next big project was a complete makeover of my publications website, which needed to be modernized and getting rid of pages about services I no longer offer.

I think a great many of us are afflicted with pernicious perfectionism these days, both on the receiving and dishing out ends. We judge and are judged by the way we dress and look and the way our work looks rather than on the quality. Being dismissed because of these superficial qualities is discouraging to those of us who are trying hard to make something of ourselves, to somehow make this a better world. Much of the time, those who judge us don’t cut us any slack.

We all have to step our performance up a notch or three to keep up with the times, especially things on the web that expose our work to a wider audience who will never see us in person if our digital presence isn’t a state-of-the-art. I don’t know about you, but that’s a reality that’s discouraging, if not outright disheartening.

But you know what? Stepping our performance up a few notches and preparing ourselves to meet new needs of our target audience is a good thing, albeit stressful. Life is so very much more complicated now, and if we want to be relevant and helpful, we need to be informed about what’s going on in the world and in people’s lives.

Hey, Pluto is supposed to be about transformation, isn’t it?  (With this transit, though, it seems to be more about GO BIG OR GO HOME.)

There’s no doubt that some of us are using Pluto in Capricorn to transform and regenerate ourselves. Using Pluto that way requires insight, self awareness, humility, motivation for self-improvement, and lots of persistent work. People who lack those qualities are more likely to look at and dwell on other people’s faults rather than their own.  I do find that Capricorn planets can make less-evolved people  snobbish and judgmental because they over-emphasize success and status at the expense of the finer qualities that don’t show on the outside.

For some of my readers, this transit (and the related one of Saturn in Scorpio) has brought a healthy surge of discontent with your work as it stands now, wanting more out of yourself and yearning for a breakthrough.

That can be called a POSITIVE PERFECTIONISM. There’s a difference between that kind of striving for perfection, and the painful self-doubt that keeps many talented and creative people from finishing their work or sharing it with the world.

The  helpful effect of this transit in career-oriented Capricorn can be an increased professionalism in the way we pursue and showcase our work. What used to be good enough isn’t good enough any more—we’re all being challenged to raise the bar. Maybe it’s coming from an inner hunger for growth, or maybe it’s coming from increased demands in your field to step your work up a notch. But the pressure is there.

Many of you are finding new mountaintops to surmount, like the mountain goat of Capricorn. Me, too, which is why I revised and updated most of my ebooks. Not fun, but needed and at least the Saturn/Capricorn influence has given me the patience and persistence to do it.

The word professionalism often has negative connotations today, and yet wouldn’t we all want our doctors and other helping people to be extremely professional in their work–and to be state of the art in it? Professionalism can be a good thing, but it does ask us to be more exacting in our expectations of ourselves. And that’s a Pluto in Capricorn type of transformation, since Capricorn aspires to high standards that lead us to be more professional.

How about you, Readers? Is the pervasive tendency to judge by appearances and to dismiss anyone who isn’t perfect getting to you?  Have you any tips on how to deal with it? One thing I’ve stepped up on to counteract today’s harsh perfection is to let people know–even perfect strangers on the street–when I like something about them. Tell us how you’ve coped with it in the comment section underneath this article.



  1. This is what I am experiencing with my business right now! You are always so on point, thank you Donna. However, I do not judge others based on what their ebook covers look like, I judge based on the content they provide and that helps me decide if I want to dive deeper into their ‘gated’ stuff.

    Leads me to a question…can I email you? I have a question about some of the books you offer…thanks!

  2. Thanks Donna, for an excellent article with just the right focus! You’re absolutely spot-on and I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been practicing a tendency lately with pernicious perfectionism. Ack! Your column was a great wake-up call and I’m determined to move forward with more positive perfectionism and professionalism. I loved your advice about letting people know when I like something about them and started doing just that…I’ve noticed that it not only makes a huge difference in their day — it works to brighten my day as well!

    • Good to hear, Regina. Maybe we should start a “Make somebody’s day” movement to counteract all this snarky sniping. Donna

  3. Amazingly timely as I was standing in a big group a few minutes ago, practicing nonjudgement. Professionally, I’m struggling with my identity and fighting to sustain motivation to keep moving forward. Rejection letters are piling up, and my sense of self-worth is suffering.

    Thank you for sharing this, it’s very encouraging!

  4. Your insight is remarkable, Donna, & your remarks have all ‘hit the mark’ with me. I find that I notice and appreciate, more than I ever have before, the professionalism and expertise shown by the many people in my life. I find so many people to be truly remarkable in their amazing abilities and the thoroughness of their work…from my doctor and nurse’s time consuming and complete case notes to my builders careful and considered improvements. This is just a small sample of my newly noticed and appreciated world outlook. It is a beautiful new opening in my consciousness…just hope I am not going overboard in expressing my appreciation and seem fawning…which is not within the spirit of said appreciation!

    Thank you for your long years of sharing your impeccable wisdom. I have followed you for more years than I care to admit and have always been blessed by your knowledge and breadth of vision.

  5. Donna, I like what you do! No matter what the package, your work has substance and character. Always has! Thank you for the insight and wisdom. Pluto in Capricorn is persnickety perfectionism. Of course it is. LOL. But I had to read it here to fully appreciate that we can work to neutralize the effect as well.

    • Thanks, BeZee. With Saturn in Gemini, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my writing–I revise my articles about five times–so sometimes perfectionism is a good thing, as it produces good quality work. Donna

  6. Having Saturn conjunct Mercury in Virgo and Pluto conjunct the Sun, I know from pernicious perfectionism. the kind that kills the spirit but doesn’t lead to great work. Years ago when I was in NY and took a tour of the UN, the tour guide pointed out a gorgeous Persian rug that was perfection except for a small flaw at the finish. The tour guides said the Muslims believed that only God is perfect, therefore they always leave a flaw in any work. That idea took a while and much therapy to settle in my brain but I now see that is true.While I can work towards a high standard, attaining perfection is impossible and therefore frustrating this side of the veil. Let go and let God, so to speak.
    I still have that perfectionist bug niggle at me from time to time but nothing like it did in the past when it literally killed off my creative work for many years with the mother of all artist blocks,
    Perfectionism is an all or nothing mind set: it’s either perfect or it’s nothing.
    I cringe when I hear people say “perfect’ in their daily speach as a way of saying great or good job. Two ladies at my office say this about twenty times a day and it is irritating as heck.

    • Good to hear from you, MELO. You’ve done a good bit of self-seeking about the perfectionism, but high standards are an asset–we just need to know how to keep it in balance. Donna

    • The North American Indian culture does the same, always puts a mistake in beadwork, as if to say no one is perfect and remain humble. Lol I never needed to put in a mistake because I was never that good at beadwork!

  7. I would say, overall, that the boomerang effect rules the day with Pluto in capricorn as it is (saturn and pluto) the great maifester of matter and the more esoteric revelations great changes in matter we have already made manifedt bring about in us. During pluto in capricorn epocs there is a tendancy to look back into the past at that collective opus to retreive, reassess, to see that what went around come back around. Art history will bear this out. Just look at all these costume dramas! 😉

    It is no surprise that snarky folk, (for whom history, inner reflection and personal accountability are superfuous traits not worth pursuing) ignore their own previously hurled boomerangs, waylaying blame, shame by diversion and other projections.

    My way of dealing with it in myself is to remember “everyone is perfectly on the path” when it feels I am doing it. I can then come to where they are on the path and from there walk apace and we come to harmony (I am so fortunate to have the dharma).

    When folks get snarky with me, on the other hand I have learned to say “oh you can do it so much better than me” “I could never live up to your expectations, indeed I could only ever live up to my own (expectations)”. That’ll usually shut ’em up.

    If I need to get something done that I COULD do on my own – to avoid feeling isolated in a tower of singular action made in a personal vacuum I delegate, delegate, delegate! This invests anyone who might get snarky in the outcome and there is general harmony all round the thing being done and folks are less likely to tell me “how to do my job”.

    I have blossomed under the pluto in cap ascension in my first house! I have learned all these things, more or less, under it’s tutelage.

    I am also in the midst of a progressed sun saturn conjuction over my natal moon (in scorpio, no less!) and what I dreaded with trepidation has prooven to be a great boon for me in my journey to wholeness via a new understanding of matter and the mind’s role in creating the opportunities that bring it about, including my relation to my own body and it’s relation to others’ minds and bodies and the possibilities therein.

    Pluto and saturn have given me this together – a perfect storm that has cleared the shore of a great deal of debris. Pluto has just passed over the last conjuction with my nodal polarity (conj the north node). I have had a lot of new people and helpers come along that I feel will be with me for many years (enduring saturn/ cap). Many relations either morphed or dissolved including that to myself).

    Soon Pluto will hit my natal chiron and the t square it is involved in along with 4 other planets and the MC (cap again) and I am so happy to have been given, so far, this new tool set to go forward into that action packed chapter of life with!!

    • Thanks for those excellent observations, Uhane. It’s a very wise perspective on these challenging transits. Donna

  8. Pluto often brings us situations that contain issues of power, in which we fear power greater than ourselves and thus we have to rise to the occasion to make the inner power greater and stronger than the outer powers.

  9. For me, it’s more important whose name is on the cover of an e-book. If it’s yours, Donna, I know it will be excellent!

  10. Don’t quite see perfectionism in the pluto transit through my 4th house and saturn in 2nd( now 3rd). I have moved everyte uranus squared pluto. First to big and beautiful log home built off the grid. To small in town back to big with all convienence s then back to small but by a secluded woods by a lake, yet. Still part of a village with neighborhoods of people more closely akin to who I am. My dream this whole time is for a wooden structure off the grid and self sufficient. I have always disliked the way homes are built these days. They are never part of the landscape and too harmful to the environment. I desire my own land, untouched so I can meld a home into it artistically and functionally.

    • May you find that dream home, Barehand.

      • With Pluto transiting my fourth, I had to move quite often before I found the right place, but I knew Pluto would keep me moving until I was where I belonged. I’ve been at my current residence three years.

        Pluto in my fourth is also making me concentrate on my “foundation,” i.e., my well-being and sense of being grounded. I’m turning 59 and still a work in progress?

  11. Yes I’m still a work in progress too…may it never stop! I do not look forward to the 2020 big Capricorn lineup….looks like another move!

  12. hey, Great infomation about Pluto in Capricorn and Pernicious Perfectionism thanks for sharing.

  13. I’ve been polishing my appearance and professionalism. I did receive my share of judgement and criticism when Pluto first moved into Capricorn when it was conjucting my South Node then when it opposed my Sun/Mercury. But that seems to have died down. Now, I’m the one who is taking a ruthless look at myself and making improvements.

    • Sounds like you’re using the energy effectively, PNW. I polished up my author-ly presence, too, when it was opposing my Sun and squaring my Moon, and it’s helped a lot. Keep at it! Donna Cunningham

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