Is Perfectionism Hindering Your Career Advancement?
Is Perfectionism Hindering Your Career Advancement?
Are you always worried that no matter how hard you try it’s never good enough? Do you feel you must give 100 percent on everything or be considered a failure? Do you delay completing projects because you can’t get them right? Avoid giving opinions because they may sound stupid?

If so, you may be a perfectionist. Perfectionism refers to self-defeating thoughts and behaviors which cause people to set unrealistic goals, fear making mistakes.

Some perfectionism is good. It can advance your career and encourage excellence and pride in accomplishments. But excessive perfectionism may make you afraid to try. You worry about disapproval. Productivity and creativity diminish. 

Perfectionist attitudes can interfere with career success. Perfectionism leads to stress, impaired health, troubled interpersonal relationships, and reduced feelings of accomplishment and confidence. Other consequences include procrastination, fear of risk-taking and rejection, conformity, self-consciousness and doubt. Perfectionists are vulnerable to depression, performance anxiety, pessimism, compulsiveness, loneliness, disappointment, impatience, frustration and anger.

Perfectionists differ from healthy strivers. Strivers set goals based on their own needs and desires rather than external expectations. Their goals are realistic, potentially attainable. They enjoy the process of pursuing tasks rather than focusing solely on results. Their reactions to failure are limited to specific situations rather than generalized to self-worth. They accept criticism, and bounce back from failure quickly and energetically.

Perfectionists believe:
- It’s possible to do things perfectly.
- Mistakes must not be made.
- The highest standards must always be met.
- Failure to reach goals equals personal shortcomings.
- People judge others negatively if they see flaws.
- Needs are secondary to goal attainment.
- Everything is black or white, right or wrong.

Overcoming Perfectionism

-- Accept yourself. Acknowledge who you are, not who you “should” be. List accomplishments and personal qualities that deserve recognition. Ask friends for feedback and support.  Take pride in successes.

Forgive mistakes. Accept the “ideal” as a guideline, goal to be worked toward, not to be achieved 100 percent. Give yourself credit for good performance and effort, even though not perfect. Use thought stopping techniques when you mentally scold yourself for not being “good enough.” Reward yourself for progress.

-- Challenge and eliminate self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. Realize perfectionism is an unattainable illusion.

Identify irrational thinking patterns, and dispute deceptive thoughts. For example, “I’ll get a reward if I perform perfectly. “Observe whether superiors always notice when you do things perfectly. When you recognize the inaccuracy of these beliefs, reevaluate. For example, if you decide you feel good when performing certain tasks perfectly, continue this behavior.  But, if nobody notices, you may decide to skip perfection.

Write answers to questions such as, ”What perfectionist characteristics do I have? What irrational beliefs do I possess? How do these impede my career advancement?  “What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t complete things perfectly?

Try replacing one self-defeating thought or behavior with a more positive alternative one every week. Believe you’ll succeed.  Even though you’re not the model, you’re moving in a positive direction.

-- Set attainable goals based on your mission, needs, values, strengths and accomplishments. Set each new goal one level beyond your present level of accomplishment. Avoid all or nothing thinking. Reassess plans.

Outline realistic, flexible time frames for achievement of goals. Be patient as you work toward goals. Enjoy the process and learning involved.

Evaluate success in terms of what you’ve accomplished and degree of enjoyment.  Experiment with standards of excellence. Instead of aiming for 100 percent, try 80 percent for some projects.

Recognize that mistakes are part of the process. “Imperfect” results don’t lead to punitive consequences. Learn from mistakes. Acknowledge your right to make them. When you stop making errors, you stop learning.

-- Set strict time limits on tasks. Prioritize tasks Outline activities that will move you toward your goal. Meet deadlines. When time is up, move to another activity.

-- Be objective about criticism. Don’t take it personally, Accept criticism. Learn from it.

Remember, a healthy achiever has drive. A perfectionist is driven. Pablo Cassals advises: ”The main thing in life is not to be afraid to be human.”

Find additional tips and strategies for the advancement of your career in Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life: