Jan 12, 2024

The Problem with Perfectionism

Can perfectionism be a good thing?

The Problem with Perfectionism

The guide to help you navigate perfectionism.

Have you ever been called a "perfectionist"? Do you work with one? I certainly have. Even in writing this, I probably spent too much time choosing emojis... 🥴

You might be tempted to think perfectionism is a good thing. It's even a popular answer to the age-old "What is your greatest weakness" interview question. (Hint: don't say that). But perfectionism tends to do more harm than good. It fuels procrastination, harms self-esteem, puts strains on relationships, and can lead to burnout.

So, what is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a set of self-defeating thought patterns that push you to achieve unrealistic or unsustainable goals.

Which perfectionist type is familiar to you?

Researchers define 2 sub-types of perfectionism: Excellence-seeking ('adaptive perfectionism'), and Failure-avoiding ('maladaptive perfectionism').

😤 Excellence-seeking perfectionists evaluate themselves (and others) to the highest performance standards. They approach work with ambition and a continuous desire to improve.

😖 Failure-avoiding perfectionists have an aversion to failing to meet high standards. They fear that if their work isn't perfect, they'll lose credibility and respect. They approach work with fear of failure and trepidation.

Although distinct in nature, the research is clear: neither form of perfectionism is associated with improved performance, and both carry negative consequences.

Why is it a problem?

❌ Physical & Mental Health Consequences: Perfectionism is consistently shown to be related to higher levels of stress, burnout, and anxiety.

❌ Low Self-Confidence: Perfectionists equate self-worth with performance, resulting in spirals of self-criticism, blame, and imposter syndrome.

❌ Stifled Creativity & Productivity: Perfectionism is linked with procrastination, inefficient work patterns (getting things "just right"), and a fear of mistakes that suffocates idea generation.

Strategies to keep your perfectionism in check, 2022 & beyond!

👌 Question the "why": Instead of setting high standards for everything, explicitly think about why something has to be perfect. Does it really, or is that just what you're used to chasing? Will it matter in a week? A month? A year?

✨ Set truly achievable goals: Perfectionists set objectives so high that they become unachievable. Push yourself to break down goals into sub-goals along the way to test whether your macro-goal is achievable.

📈 Don't fear mistakes: Mistakes and setbacks are a natural part of everyone's professional journey. When a mistake happens, just accept it, learn from it, and move forward.

Easy, quick tactics for your growth

✨ Blossom daily reflections: If you have perfectionist tendencies, you might have more Tough or Bummer days. As you reflect daily, think about whether you're being overly self-critical. Reframe obstacles as learnings. Celebrate achievements - big or small.

🙌 Guidance from your coach: Talk to a coach about tips for overcoming unhealthy forms of perfectionism. Think about times in the past you've dealt with the issue, and open up about what happened. Your coach can help you tactically work through it.

💭 Words to remember: "Don't aim for perfect. Aim for better than yesterday."