Joseph appeared for his first job interview and he did pretty well. However, for one question, he took longer than usual to respond. After leaving the interview room, he started thinking about that hiccup—the delay in answering. He couldn’t help but obsess over how he should’ve answered faster.
Obsessing over what you could have done better is one of the most common examples of perfectionism. You may think it’s only natural for people to react in this manner but perfectionism can reach a point where it becomes unhealthy. Read on to see why overcoming perfectionism is important, especially in professional environments.
What Is Perfectionism?
We often confuse high-achievers with perfectionists. While both types of people want to succeed, high-achievers are motivated to perform their best and perfectionists are motivated by fear. Real-life examples of perfectionism are often viewed as positive traits but they can lead to negative thoughts and behaviors that make it difficult to fulfill goals.
The meaning of perfectionism is rooted in the need to be or appear perfect. Healthy levels of perfectionism can be self-motivating and can encourage you to overcome obstacles. In excess, perfectionism can make it harder to reach your personal best. The most common symptom is stressing more and achieving less. This is why it’s crucial that you keep your perfectionist tendencies in check and instead, focus on high-achiever behavior.
What Causes Perfectionism?
Perfectionism is driven primarily by internal factors, such as the desire to avoid failures. For some, it’s a coping mechanism, where individuals prepare themselves for the worst possible outcome in any situation. This way, they make themselves less susceptible to adverse impacts. Many perfectionists grew up with unrealistic expectations from immediate social environments, such as family, school and social circles.
Perfectionism manifests itself in three ways:
Self-oriented perfectionism, where we pursue an unrealistic desire to be perfect by imposing the desire on ourselves
Other-oriented perfectionism, where we impose unrealistic standards of perfectionism on others
Socially prescribed perfectionism, where we perceive unrealistic expectations from others
Therefore, a perfectionist might often judge themselves or others for not meeting or demonstrating ideal behaviors. This can further impact the way they view the world.
Do You Have Perfectionist Tendencies?
Many of us go on with our lives, shrugging off perfectionist traits. It’s important to identify and address these traits because they’re unhealthy and can affect your emotional and physical health in the long run. If you want to educate and remove yourself from perfectionist behaviors, here are some common signs that you need to look out for:
For perfectionists, even an ‘almost perfect’ result isn’t good enough. It’s all or nothing, which means that 100% of the goals should be met. Despite achieving something close to excellence, they remain dissatisfied and want all their objectives met.
Fear As Motivation
Perfectionists often work toward their goals because they’re afraid that they won’t be able to meet them. Therefore, instead of a desire to work toward goals, perfectionists focus on avoiding failure. While this type of motivation does push individuals to work harder, it’s unsuitable for long-term personal development.
Perfectionists tend to set unrealistic standards for themselves and others, and even have unrealistic expectations. In short, they always set the bar too high and often bite off more than they can chew. This not only puts additional pressure on them but if the goals remain unfulfilled, they often end up being self-critical.
Individuals with perfectionist traits are highly critical of everyone, especially themselves. Even the slightest mistake can throw them off their track completely. They don’t want to leave room for any mistakes and want everything to be absolutely perfect. They’re quick to spot imperfections and are often harsh on themselves.
Perfectionists are focused on results. They want to see their goals converted, which means they want to see the fruits of their labor. However, they are so focused on end goals that they miss out on the process involved in reaching those goals. In most cases, they can’t enjoy the process of growth because they’re obsessively thinking of ways to avoid failure.
Fear Of Failure
As we’ve already highlighted, perfectionists want 100% of their goals met. This means that there is no room for any mistake or imperfection. This is because perfectionists are afraid of failure. However, the way they view ‘failure’ is unhealthy because anything less than perfect is considered a failure.
As a less-than-perfect performance or achievement is scary and painful to perfectionists, they become highly defensive when being criticized. Even when it comes to constructive criticism, they tend to view everything in a negative light. Instead of incorporating the feedback, they look to dismiss the valuable information because of their discomfort.
If some of all of these perfectionist traits resonate with you, don’t fear. Identifying, addressing and working toward them is the first step to overcoming perfectionism.
How To Stop Being A Perfectionist
In today’s highly competitive world, it’s easy to lose track of your needs and expectations. Seeing everyone racing against time, it’s difficult not to focus on yourself obsessively and be afraid of making mistakes. However, this can drain your self-esteem, cause self-doubt and make it harder for you to see the bigger picture. Curb your perfectionist tendencies by learning to let go. Here are some strategies that’ll teach you how to overcome perfectionism successfully:
The first step to identifying that there’s a problem is to acknowledge it. Recognizing that you’re doing it in the first place can help you think through situations that bring out your perfectionist traits most strongly. If you face difficulty identifying your traits, ask a friend or someone you trust. Reflect on past situations and make your list.
Change Your Self-Talk
The most difficult step in overcoming perfectionism is changing the way your inner voice guides you. In other words, perfectionists often have negative self-talk that keeps leading them. It’s time to challenge your inner voice and change the narrative. For example, instead of saying “I have completely ruined it”, try saying, “I have made a few mistakes and I will be careful about these the next time”.
Focus On The Positive
Perfectionists are often quick to spot mistakes and be extremely harsh for the smallest inconveniences. Even if they do a decent job, they can’t help but focus on the negative. If you’re struggling with unhealthy perfectionism, you can make a conscious effort toward softening your tendency to spot errors. By noticing the positive aspects of your contribution, you can move away from your critical focus.
Learn To Accept Criticism
Remember that anyone providing criticism (constructive or otherwise) is not attacking you. Instead of looking at criticism as an attack and acting defensively, try using the information to make a change. Identify where your strengths and weaknesses lie and look at feedback as stepping stones for success. Embrace constructive criticism, work on your weaknesses and march forward.
Enjoy The Process
As we’ve already mentioned, perfectionists are extremely result-oriented. It means that they focus excessively on the end goal. If results are less than perfect, then they tend to be extremely self-critical. You can try to move away from such behaviors by taking baby steps toward your goal and enjoying every step. Setting and celebrating milestones not only helps you enjoy the process but also makes you feel a sense of accomplishment every step of the way.
Perfectionism can also be a career-limiting behavior. Whether you’re an individual contributor or manager, perfectionism can limit your chances of advancing the corporate ranks. It can take you longer to produce results as the primary focus will be on perfecting the initial steps of projects. Therefore, knowing how to deal with perfectionism is critical and can be a liberating experience, when done well.
Pursue Your Best Self
To be the very best version of yourself, you need to understand yourself well. Self-knowledge can not only be instrumental in overcoming perfectionism but can also teach you how to use your strengths. Harappa’s Interpreting Self course will teach you how to identify your strengths, leverage them and accomplish your goals. You’ll even learn to reflect on feedback and gain insights for self-development. Power-packed frameworks such as The Kaleidoscope and The River of Life will teach you how to reflect on life-shaping behaviors and experiences. Start your learning journey with Harappa today and be the very best at work!
Explore topics such as Life Skills and how to improve them, Performance Management, Life Expectations and How To Deal With Insecurities from Harappa Diaries to take charge of your personal and professional growth.
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