Perfectionism is often presented as a guarantee of excellence. The media largely abounds in this direction by presenting models of perfection and success. Yet this absolute demand on oneself has more negative than positive effects.
Stress, anxiety, insomnia: consequences that tend to increase over the years. In this article, I explain to you why being a perfectionist is a hindrance in your personal and professional life.
Being a perfectionist poisons the body and the mind
Being a perfectionist is a real obstacle in your life. And this character trait tends to increase over time. Indeed, when a person reaches a high level of perfectionism, it can create many physiological and psychological problems:
- Feeling of uncertainty
- Feeling of failure
A perfectionist is in a constant search for excellence. This mode of operation gives high quality results.
For your part, do you feel this requirement towards yourself?
The problem arises when the attention to detail extends to all your activities. From the way you manage a project to the way you write a simple email.
Moreover, perfectionists have a deep belief that the people around them have the same level of rigor. But also that they take a very critical look at their work.
Convinced that the right to make mistakes is not an option, these people feel an inner conflict evolving along with limiting thoughts:
- “I have no right to fail”
- “My work does not live up to my expectations”
- “If I didn’t reach my goal, it’s because I didn’t give myself 100%”
The level of perfection imposed on oneself is simply impossible to maintain over the long term. It then becomes difficult to recognize the real value of the work done. And the feeling of failure often takes precedence over the impression of having succeeded.
A success can easily be perceived as a partial failure. Like a top athlete who couldn’t savor the pleasure of having won 2nd place, too tormented by the idea of having come so close to 1st place.
Over the years, the disappointments accumulate. A downward spiral gradually sets in and the self-image deteriorates.
Perfectionists then become more touchy and irritable. They also end up being less organized, prone to procrastination as doubt takes precedence over action. Not to mention the problems of physical exhaustion and risks of burn-out due to the mental load that is added. Indeed, doing “better” takes more time than doing “good”.
But beware, being a perfectionist is not the same as being a rigorous person.
What is the difference between a conscientious person and a perfectionist?
Social pressure and different education systems push us to always do better.
To this is added the competitive spirit in which we bathe from the schoolyard.
To carry out your projects, it is true that it is essential to have a meticulous and assiduous mind. That said, between diligent work and an unrealistic level of expectation, there is a whole world. Now let’s see where you are.
Are you a conscientious person?
If you are a conscientious person, you move forward according to humanly attainable standards. In your professional projects, you establish your objectives without forgetting to establish priorities.
The importance of details is not left out, but it will be influenced by different factors:
- How much time is available for each step?
- How important is each action in relation to the whole project?
By taking the context into consideration, it is then easier to balance the efforts and to have a certain flexibility.
Realizing projects brings you satisfaction and pleasure. Your journey is just as constructive as the accomplishment of your goals, because you know how to take advantage of your successes as well as your mistakes. This is also the reason why you accept constructive criticism.
Are you a perfectionist?
If you are a perfectionist, you impose standards of excellence that are sometimes unattainable. Your end goals sometimes overshadow the amount of effort you will need to invest. This is why you sometimes invest too much time in minor activities, to the detriment of higher priority actions.
For you, every detail is important and you are most often inflexible about your way of doing things.
You have the impression that the success of your projects determines the value that others will attribute to you. This is why criticism of your work affects you personally. Your self-esteem is then abused between the desire to offer the best and the constant doubt of the quality of your work.
Therefore, you very often feel stress and dread failures.
Did you recognize yourself in any of these 2 descriptions?
Know that if you are a perfectionist, a study conducted in the United Kingdom by Martin Smith, of York St John’s University, confirms the hypothesis that this tendency does not improve with age.
This eternal dissatisfaction with one’s own results brings a flood of negative thoughts and with them anger, irritability and anxiety.
Fortunately, being a perfectionist is not an irreversible character trait.
Are there solutions to get out of perfectionism?
You have already understood what the harmful effects of perfectionism are and this is a good first step. Our behaviors, when they have been anchored in us for years, do not change easily. However, I suggest some courses of action that can help you.
Pay attention to indicators of perfectionism
Take the time to observe your thoughts and physical sensations. When you see that several indicators point to perfectionist behavior, it’s time to let go:
- Repeated procrastination on the same project
- Strong tension in the body
- Great difficulty sleeping
The sensations and signals are different for each person. It is normal to need time to get to know your own functioning.
Apply Pareto’s Law
Learn how to balance your efforts using the Pareto principle, also called the 20/80 rule. To do this, take a step back. I am well aware that time is often lacking to do so, but you have everything to gain from it.
The idea is to first focus on the 20% of the work that will get you to 80% of the goal. Once the weight of the task is off your shoulders, it’s up to you to decide if you want to give 80% more effort for the remaining 20%!
Divide your work into easily achievable sub-objectives
If someone asked you to eat a whole pie, you would probably start by cutting yourself off. I advise you to proceed in the same way with your projects. Break them down into small, realistic steps, allowing for the time needed to complete them.
Without forgetting to leave a margin to manage your unforeseen events!
I hope these courses of action will help you enjoy your days and fully appreciate their beauty.
And to sum up this article in one sentence, I offer you a proverb: “The best is the enemy of the good”. The wisdom of yesteryear sometimes holds a very simple truth. By seeking to do better, we take the risk of losing what was already successful and valuable.
Know that there is necessarily something that you do naturally very well in your professional activity. This is what I call your area of excellence. And once discovered, there is no need to run after perfection.
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