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The Problem with Perfectionism

Everybody wants to do a good job but can perfectionism can be too much? Can moments where we push ourselves beyond our limits be damaging to both our emotional and physical health? Aiming high is a great attitude to have but aiming for perfection can create a vicious cycle and end up with the opposite results.

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Perfection is defined as “the action or process of improving something until it is faultless.” However, what do we consider ‘faultless?’ Surely that is different to everyone and herein lies the main flaw. Perfection can never be achieved as a standard, only in the mind of the person perceiving it. All that is being accomplished is setting a ridiculously high and unrealistic standard.

I know what you’re thinking: well, if people can work to this level, why not let them? Let me lay out a few of the personal and professional problems that perfectionism can cause.

The Wrong Person for the Job

Striving for perfection can cause us to have tunnel vision. People can be so committed to achieving the end goal that they ignore the other problems surrounding them. There is an inner battle between believing they are the right person for the job and knowing there is someone else who can handle the job better. There is no shame in asking for help or admitting that perhaps somebody with more experience and skill is better equipped to handle this job. Perfectionism can make us lose perspective on the job at hand and overthink to the point of not being able to complete the task.

A Negative Work Environment

We are not going to enjoy every single day of work. It’s unrealistic to think that inside or outside factors are not going to affect our mood. However, if every day feels worse than the one before then you have to question what is causing this. Maybe it is just a full-on week or even that you’ve not been getting enough sleep lately. Or, it could be an unnecessary pressure you are putting on yourself. When we believe perfection is the only end goal, it can make even the smallest tasks feel like they will make or break a business. A challenge can be motivational but starting off a task with an impossible goal will only lead to disappointment in the work you produce. This will result in never feeling satisfaction from the work you do and the effort you put in. 

Taking Work Home With You

Sometimes we have to work overtime to complete a task. Commitment to a project is admirable and should be acknowledged as such but this is not the same as labouring over something. You have to be realistic with yourself. Does this task really require extra time outside of work to complete or are you unable to let go until it is ‘perfect.’ Even if you are not taking any physical work home with you, the stress and anxiety that has built during the day will follow you home. You might even feel guilty if you don’t complete a task quickly or to the standard you have set for yourself.

It’s true that people who claim to be perfectionists can produce some amazing work. However, the negative effects of this will manifest in other ways such as poor health from stress or negative relationships with your co-workers. If you think you could have problems with perfectionism, there are ways to combat the negative effects. 

  • Always acknowledge and celebrate your hard work and success.
  • Ask for help even if it feels difficult.
  • Be realistic about the project/task.
  • Recognise your strengths but do not overestimate them.

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