Are you feeling perpetually frustrated, stressed, or like you will never measure up?
Are you your own worst critic, never satisfied with your work or yourself?
Do you obsess over the details but lose sight of the big picture?
Do you experience a strong sense of shame if you make a mistake?
Have you been told that your standards are too high?
Are you hyper-focused on the 1% of a project that went wrong vs. the 99% that was fabulous?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you could be suffering from perfectionism. Yes, I said suffering. While perfectionistic traits may help you initially, in the long run, living up to impossible standards can lead to burnout. It has been said that anxiety is the fuel of perfectionism. In my role as an executive coach, I have seen it take a lot of people down in their careers and lives. Striving to achieve something that is impossible takes a toll mentally, physically and emotionally.
The surprising thing I see next is that people actually start to get stuck in their careers. Being hyper-focused on getting everything perfect all the time (which is impossible), causes perfectionists to lose sight of the bigger picture of their position and career. In other words, too much energy gets wasted fighting the losing battle of perfectionism, leaving no energy left to be strategic about their current role and overall career.
If you are a leader who is a perfectionist, you end up having less energy to give your team. You may even see a lot of turnover because perfectionists lose sight of the positive, making it harder for them to reinforce exemplary behavior and appreciate the good things employees bring to their jobs. And, you might be delegating less because no one can meet your standards better than you. This lack of delegation sends qualified employees right to your competitor for a job where they can develop, learn from their mistakes, and grow.
Perfectionists also pay the price during a job search by refusing to apply for a promotion or new job unless they meet 100% of the requirements. Oftentimes, they lose out to someone who had only 60% of the requirements and an attitude that says: “I’ll be able to quickly pick up the things I don’t know.”
Here are some quick tips to overcome perfectionism:
Strive for excellence, not perfection.
Replace perfectionistic thoughts with more realistic statements like “nobody is perfect” or “I can learn from my mistakes.”
Talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend.
Don’t believe every thought that crosses your mind. Try this the next time you are hard on yourself: pause, then ask yourself is this thought really true? Is it helpful? Kind? If the answer is"no" to any of these, let it go.
Learn how to distinguish who you are from what you do.
Practice imperfection: send an email out with a typo, leave the house a little messy, don’t over-prepare for the presentation.
If none of these ideas work, consider seeking out a coach who can help you learn to let go of perfectionism.
Remember, happiness is a Choice!
Janine Friedman, Owner of Choice Training and Coaching Solutions, Inc. is an executive and leadership coach. She coaches stressed out executives who want to work smarter, lead better and live happier. To learn more about her background, click here.
To schedule a conversation to discuss these ideas further, click here.
Success is a Choice.