Why Being A Perfectionist Is Holding You Back in Your Career

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It is the age of perfectionism.

This generation of workers has been developmentally bombarded with ideas of perfection, from being rewarded with gold stars for every achievement to images of photoshopped bodies on every street corner.  In this world, you need to be a hustler, a self-starter, a go-getter (and the best one) to be valued.

It would make sense that perfectionism is increasing.  Society has become hyper-focused on being the best and then parading it around.

Perfectionism is subjective.  But, generally, it’s setting excessively high standards for yourself.

Perfectionism has shown to have some positive attributes.  People who consider themselves perfectionists are highly motivated, can work in fast-paced environments and are more engaged in their work.

But, there’s a dark side to setting unrealistic expectations.  People who self-identify as perfectionists also experience feelings of inadequacy, poor work-life balance, stress and mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Perfectionism is holding you back in your career.

Though perfectionism is based in valuing high work ethic and wanting to perform well, perfectionists actually do not perform better their non-perfectionist coworkers.  This is probably because the negative attributes of perfectionism cancel out the positive ones.

Perfectionism creates:

Rumination on mistakes

When you focus on your actions through a critical lens, your brain will filter out your achievements.  For example, if you accomplished ten things that day and did not accomplish one, a perfectionist mindset would hyper focus on the one incomplete task.

This means that even when you do well, which is probably often, you quickly overlook it.  If you can’t enjoy your accomplishments, what’s the point of working towards them?

Black and white thinking

Also called “all or nothing thinking”, “black and white” thinking is a rigid way of looking at circumstances.

Common black and white thinking sounds like, “It has to be done this way or not at all” or “If I don’t do this perfectly, I’m a complete failure”.  This way of thinking limits you from being able to problem solve in new ways, be creative and take risks.

Poor mental health

When your self-worth is rooted in how well you do, you’re bound to be on a self-esteem roller coaster.  No one can do well all the time.  Creating self-worth that exists on acceptance of who you are is more stable than the changing winds of circumstance.

People who consider themselves perfectionists often experience more anxiety and depression than others.  They experience perpetual feelings of inadequacy, increased stress and feelings of guilt about their performance.

Controlling behavior

It is likely that if you demand perfectionism from yourself, you will also demand that from others.  This can make you difficult to work with.

No one can be perfect (including perfectionists).  Placing excessively high standards on those around you only creates an anxiety inducing and judgement filled environment.

This article was written by Kris Leigh Townsend.

Kris Leigh Townsend is a writer based in Los Angeles.

One comment

  1. According to Travis Bradberry, co-founder of TalentSmart, “Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish, instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.” However, recognizing that perfectionism can have deleterious side effects doesn’t mean you must give up your quest for accomplishment and success. Instead, you need to understand the difference between a high achiever and a perfectionist. They both aim for an excellent outcome. However, the perfectionist is absorbed with end results and doesn’t really enjoy the journey of getting there. They suffer when not achieving perfection and often have negative self-talk because of it. As a side effect, the perfectionist stops noticing his or her impact on others and become self-centered in achieving the perfect result. The high achiever, on the other hand, enjoys the journey of achievement, coupled with a healthy drive to achieve and concern for others affected by his or her actions.

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