Perfectionism

Video Transcript

This short video explores what perfectionism is, and how it can damage your career.

Do you ever feel unwilling to submit your work unless it's absolutely perfect?

Do you set goals for yourself that are so high you can't possibly meet them?

Or, do you see every mistake as a huge failure, instead of an important lesson?
 
If any of this sounds familiar, you might be a perfectionist

Perfectionism is like an obsession, and it occurs when you have a set of self-defeating thought patterns that push you to try to achieve unrealistic goals. It can lead to stress, unhappiness, low self-esteem, and decreased performance. It can also negatively affect your health, creativity, and working relationships. 

There are two types of perfectionism – adaptive perfectionism and maladaptive perfectionism.

Adaptive perfectionists are always trying to build their skills and improve the quality of their work. They're optimistic about what they do, and they really want to perform to the best of their ability. However, they know when they've done a good job. They hit deadlines and they constantly improve the work they do.

Maladaptive perfectionists, on the other hand, are never really satisfied with their achievements. They feel like they're lacking in some way, and that mistakes are unacceptable. Because of this, and because they do so much rework, they can spend a very long time delivering any work at all, meaning they miss deadlines, and disappoint the people who depend on them. Maladaptive perfectionists often experience a fear of failure. They also doubt and criticize themselves.

It's easy to see that maladaptive perfectionism is unproductive and unhealthy. If you approach your work this way, there are several things you can do to challenge these behaviors, and create a healthier outlook.

Start by writing down everything you do that you think needs to be perfect. For instance, do your budget reports have to be perfect? Do your work clothes have to be perfectly pressed? Do you feel like you have to have perfect relationships? To help you make a comprehensive list of your perfectionist tendencies, look at your work, hobbies, habits, and even your goals.

Next, think about each of these areas carefully. Why do you believe a certain thing has to be perfect? What's causing you to feel this way? Write down the beliefs you have about each of these behaviors.

Once you've done this, come up with one specific way you can challenge each behavior. For instance, imagine you spend a lot of time checking and re-checking your work. You could challenge this behavior by resolving to only checking your work twice – once when it's finished, and then, again, a couple of hours later.

It takes time to overcome maladaptive perfectionism. But trying to overcome several areas at once will just make you feel overwhelmed, and increase the chances you’ll give up. Instead, pick one behavior to focus on at a time. 

Now, read the article that accompanies this video to find out more about perfectionism.

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Comments (4)
  • Over a month ago Yolande wrote
    Hi Lilellen

    I had to smile when I read your posting because we also had to walk around with books on our heads! The other day someone gave me a humoristic insight into that, saying that we were so fortunate because all the knowledge in the books probably just flowed into our heads. (If only...!!)

    Anyhow, if you are aware of your perfectionism then you know that it's something to watch out for all the time. Sometimes we have to accept that good enough is really GOOD ENOUGH. That means that you are also good enough. Refuse to believe the contrary...it works!

    Kind regards
    Yolandé
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    HI Lilellen,
    Welcome to the Club.

    Growing up in the environment where you were criticized for things not being perfect is hard. Yet learning as an adult different strategies to accept ourselves, and accept when 'good is good enough' can make a huge difference to our lives.

    What other strategies do you use to help you with your perfectionist tendencies? Which strategies in the article resonated with you?

    Hope to you see around the Forums with any questions or thoughts for the discussions.

    If I can help you with anything here, just let me know.
    Midgie
  • Over a month ago lilellen wrote
    I have a tendendy to lean toward perfectionism. I believe it is due to criticism and actually learning behavior. I recall writing a letter to my cousin at the age of 12. My mother had to read the letter and would ball it up and tell me to write over all the dots and t's had to be in place. When I spoke I had to enunciate every word, speak perfectly. I practiced walking around the house with books on my head to have good posture. So naturally everything I do takes me longer than it should because I'm always thinking it's not good enough.

    Now I time myself. I give myself a certain amount of time to complete a project. If I don't complete it in that time, I ask for help or assistance.
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