It's often thought perfectionism is a positive trait to have, after all, you are striving for everything to be perfect. That's got to be good, doesn't it? It is a personal trait where it's YOU that's judging YOUR performance - in absolutely everything.
* How you look
* Whether your home looks as beautiful as the magazines
* The contents on your resume and whether it stands up to the next person in your field
* If your children are behaving in a way that will reflect poorly on you as a parent
* What other people think of you at work and home
* If your clients will see you as professional and suitable for the job
Often perfectionism drives us to set unachievable goals and performance standards, and it simply isn't healthy if you are criticising yourself all of the time. There are actually two different types of perfectionism:
Adaptive perfectionism - this is setting high, but ultimately achievable standards that have little to no effect on mental health.
Maladaptive perfectionism - refers to unhealthy and unrealistic standards which are linked to low self-esteem coupled with criticising yourself all of the time.
The problem is, with maladaptive perfectionism, it can lead to anxiety, stress, and other mental illness.
When we are working our way up in our career we are passionately striving for success. If the truth is to be known, we are very focused on avoiding failure. Perfectionism isn't a problem if it's a motivational force that helps us to achieve high standards and is healthy. The key to adaptive perfectionism is we can let go and not be really critical or feel defined by the mistakes we make.
So how is perfectionism harming your career?
You might be thinking... if you are perfect then everything will go your way, won't it?
Here are 4 ways why being a perfectionist isn't helping your career.
1. It's stopping you from giving things a go!
When you are a perfectionist you aren't going to want to try anything you think you won't instantly be good at. You don't want to be red-faced and embarrassed if your ego gets battering because you didn't succeed the first time you try something new.
When you climb up the corporate ladder you are required to try new strategies, tools, and experiences to perform better and grow as a leader. If you can't even try something new because perfectionism is holding you back, then it will be difficult to have the skills you need to be in the leadership position you're striving for.
2. Your attention is focused on the wrong things
When you're so focused on getting everything JUST right, it's easy for you to become obsessive. You spend all of your time going over the minor details that don't really make an impact on the big picture. Perhaps you're focusing on the font and colours of your report, or the exact words you will write in your presentation. While you are wasting time on the intricate details you are giving up the opportunities to connect and develop relationships with your colleagues and moving onto the next challenge and opportunity to develop.
If you think about it, if you can't get work completed on time, you're inefficient. Inefficiency is directly linked to productivity and profit loss. So, there's little growth in your career if you can't be efficient and effective at work.
Remember - perfectionism doesn't lead to excellence!
3. It's difficult to build relationships and connections Not everyone operates the same way. So, if you are expecting everyone around you to be perfect and without flaws, it's not going to end well. Trying to live up to someone's standards when they are a perfectionist is impossible.
It's hard to work with someone who expects everything to be perfect. In fact, over time everyone's work will appear perfect in your eyes, but you'll be difficult to be around and it will be hard for anyone to like you.
4. There's no time to acknowledge all the good work and milestones achieved
When you're so focused on getting work polished so it's shiny and perfect you are missing out on opportunities to celebrate all you've achieved. In fact, once you've finished one task there's no time to celebrate all the great work you've achieved because you are focused on immediately moving to the next job. When this happens over and over again it can lead to burnout. There's no break or time to relax.
If you are focusing on everything perfect, you are leading yourself to disappointment. Nothing is truly perfect.
What can you do to overcome perfectionism?
Change your mindset
One of the ways you can do this is by learning from your mistakes and treating them as opportunities for improvement. Striving for something, and if by chance you fail, recognising this is ok.
Remember: Success is not about perfect end results.
Identify who can help you
Think about ways you can identify the triggers when you start to ruminate or get lost in perfectionist habits. Talk to a trusted colleague and let them know when to "pull you up" if you start focusing too much on one task or simply ask them to keep you focused on the long-term goal.
Listen to how you FEEL
Perfectionism often leads you to feel anxious or unhappy about working on a task. Maybe you keep finding yourself judging your work and feeling it's not good enough. So, listen to your body and see what embedded patterns are keeping your focus on the detail. Once you recognise how you feel, distract yourself with a cup of tea or a quick walk around the block. Coming back to the desk with fresh eyes and mind can bring you back to focusing on what's really important.
Adjust your expectations
No one is expected to be perfect. It's time to think about what the end result should look like, with flexibility. Projects and tasks will always change once you've started, so it's important to have the ability to change our course of action if things change. No one expects you to be infallible, so it's time to adjust your expectations as well.
Define your own success
When you are suffering from perfectionism, you are doubting yourself because you are defining your success on other people's approval. This is a really hard road to travel because it means there's a lot that's out of your control. Don't wait for other people to offer their opinion on your work, start acknowledging all of the achievements you have made each day. This helps to foster a grateful attitude towards what you've achieved, no matter how small they are.
If you've tried a variety of strategies and you still feel perfectionism is getting in the way of achieving the success you want AND it's causing you unhappiness at work and home, then it's time to seek help.
Get in touch with me if you want to bust perfectionism and climb to success. Book a chat directly into my calendar here.