Why Being a Perfectionist is Hurting Your Career

Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.

–Brené Brown

The pitfalls of perfection and tips to overcome them

During a job interview how do you respond to the question, “What is your weakness?” Most people I’ve asked tell me they’re a perfectionist. Why? Because they believe the traits associated with perfectionism—self-motivation, detail-oriented, strong work ethic—make them valuable employees.

While I think it’s good to strive for success, perfectionism can lead to high stress, anxiety, burnout and other health-related problems. Perfectionists put a lot of pressure on themselves (takes one to know one), often set unrealistic goals and extremely high standards. And when we make mistakes, look out, they’re magnified tenfold in our minds at least. Try to move forward from failure? Good luck!  At this point its too difficult to let go and move on.

“In your career, perfectionism demands that you continually pursue validation — inner and outer — to tell you you’re ‘ok,’” according to Kathy Caprino, international career and personal success coach. “If ‘perfect’ is your standard, you find it hard to feel safe, worthy or ‘good enough’ unless you’re achieving some invisible standard you’ve created. You’re on the constant look-out for the next bar to jump over to prove your worthiness, and you become demoralized quickly when others are less than supportive to you.”

Perfectionists thrive off the attention and admiration. It can be addictive, and consequently quite dangerous for your mental health. Here are the three main downsides of being a perfectionist and tips to rewire your thinking:

 You have a distorted view of reality

You often have unrealistic expectations, and by setting your sights too high, you are often setting yourself up for failure. You have a tendency to exaggerate the negative and disregard the positive.

Tip: Ask for feedback from your colleagues and clients on a regular basis. This will help you get out of your own head and give you a more accurate overall picture. It will allow you to focus on the progress along the way instead of the end results.

Your competitive nature makes it hard for you to be a team player

Do you have a need-to-win mentality? Do you have a hard time being happy for a colleague when they are praised? Having an obsession with being the best will not only push people away, but in some cases, it can also negatively impact the growth of the company.

Tip: Prioritize the team’s success over personal performance. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else, focus on your role and doing it well.

You are less efficient

Never satisfied and always overanalyzing their performance, perfectionists will spend too much time on a project and are less productive in the long run.
the perfectionist's handbook
“When you take a step back, you quickly realize that trying to do everything well — and exert the same level of detail, effort and energy to all your endeavors — leaves you feeling stressed and exhausted all of the time,” according to Dr Jeff Szymanski, Harvard psychologist and author of The Perfectionist’s Handbook. “Our limited time and resources make it all the more important to be strategic about when we give 100 percent, rather than wasting effort on less-important activities.”

Tip: Replace self-criticism with self-acceptance.

It’s time for all of us to start embracing our imperfections. Let go of the ideal. Let go of what you think perfection looks like. Life is perfection in all its imperfections. Don’t let an obsession for perfection slow you down in accomplishing your goals. Say goodbye to “I’m not good enough!”

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Rose Caiola
Inspired. Rewired.

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