Striving for excellence motivates you, striving for perfection is demoralizing (Harriet Braiker)
Perfectionism is the relentless striving for extremely high standards that are personally and professionally demanding and unrealistic . Judging your self- worth based upon the achievement of these standards.
Perfectionists tend to believe that anything short of perfection is horrible, and that even minor imperfections will lead to catastrophe. Adults with perfectionism tend to believe that they should never make mistakes and that making a mistake means they are a failure or a horrible person for disappointing others. Thinking this way makes it extremely scary for them to make mistakes. Trying to be perfect is also likely to make you feel stressed and maybe even disappointed with yourself much of the time because you are not able to meet your standards easily or at all. Over time, you may even start to believe that you are not as capable as others. Therefore, it is worthwhile to consider loosening up your standards a bit to ease the stress and anxiety you may feel from trying so hard to be perfect.
Common types of perfectionist beliefs and assumptions
I should be the best at everything
I should be perfect
I should do this task thoroughly otherwise I’m a failure
I must win this race or I’m a rubbish athlete
Research suggests that the costs of perfectionism outweigh the benefits. Sherry et al (2010) discovered amongst University Psychology Professors that conscientiousness was correlated positively with number of publications where as perfectionism is associated negatively with the total publications and there is reduced impact of these publications. What does this mean for you or your organization and what changes may you have to make to ensure your organization grows ad evolves? Perfectionism is a dangerous state of mind in an imperfect world ( Robert Hillyer)
1. Learn to recognize perfectionism
It’s important to identify if you are a perfectionist as this will allow you to make the appropriate adjustments. You can ask yourself the following questions:
Do I have trouble meeting my own standards?
Do I often feel frustrated, depressed, anxious, or angry while trying to meet my standards?
Have I been told that my standards are too high?
Do my standards get in the way? For example, do they make it difficult for me to meet project deadlines, finish a task, trust others through delegating tasks or do anything spontaneously?
2. Reframing perfectionist beliefs
It is important to evaluate, question and reframe perfectionist beliefs with realistic beliefs and standards . The unhelpful assumptions such as ‘this must be perfect ‘ contribute to reduced productivity as some of the standards and expectations are unattainable however you are spending too much time rechecking and researching before completing a project. Unfortunately you may become self -critical following not meeting your excessive standards and this can create a sense of hopelessness, depression, anxiety and low self- esteem which I have observed in my coaching and therapy clients.
Developing alternative realistic statements through identifying the advantages and disadvantages of holding this belief facilitates and creates flexible thinking whilst reducing work related stress. Thinking flexibly will allow you to thrive and meet the KPI’s through multi-tasking , problem solving and prioritizing tasks rather than becoming stuck on a task due to your perfectionism.
I would suggest practising these helpful statements regularly ( daily) even if you do not believe them immediately . Repetition will turn positive realistic thoughts into a habit and help to diminish the negative self-talk.
I should be perfect > Nobody is perfect
I shouldn’t make mistakes otherwise it means I’m a failure > Making a mistake doesn’t mean I’m stupid or a failure, It means I’m human as making mistakes is part of life
I should be the best at everything > All I can do is my best
I should be pleasant all of time > It’s okay not to be pleasant all the time. Everyone has a bad day sometime
Everyone should like me otherwise it means I’m unlikeable and unworthy > It’s okay if some people don’t like me. No one is liked by everyone!”
3. Altering Behaviours perpetuating the perfectionism
Disengage with behaviours associated with perfectionism such as rechecking reports and emails, seeking reassurance from your Manager or Supervisor and prevaricating due to fear of not meeting your unhelpful perfectionistic assumptions. The unhelpful and excessive actions outlined will reduce the time available to engage in your duties which is likely to increase stress and anxiety. Consequently you may have a tendency to avoid facing uncertainty and this may hamper your career progression due to an aversion of risk taking. The development of realistic expectations and goal setting can help with addressing these behaviours whilst rewarding yourself for achievements will positively reinforce new ways of responding.
4. Compassionate self talk – It is important to develop a compassionate mindset and to consider what you would say to a colleague if they shared they were useless for not meeting a deadline. Consider what your response would be and apply this mindset to your perfectionistic beliefs.
5. Mindfulness and letting go of the perfectionist thoughts by remaining present , noticing the beliefs and how they effect you and accepting the existence of the beliefs in a non-judgemental way. You can focus your attention on the effort you are utilizing in fulfilling your role and how rewarding it can be.
Thank you for reading the article and I would love for you to connect with me on social media platforms including :
Twitter ( Martina Witter).
LinkedIn – Martina Motivator Witter
Director of Rapha Therapy Services