Let me preface this article with the sheer fact that no one is perfect. All of us have imperfections. And, perfection is subjective. That means, whatever is perfect to me, might not be perfect to you and so on and so forth. That is why you should never try to be perfect for anyone or anything. Thinking that you have to be perfect at anything in life is not only a barrier to your goals and life fulfillment, but you have directly set yourself up for failure as you spend your days chasing something that doesn’t exist. Exhausting!
Having a perfection mindset for yourself and your life has its repercussions and can hinder your success in the workforce.
Here are 4 ways that Perfection hinders success at work and the Fix to overcome this Barrier:
Perfection decreases confidence
As you set out to chase something that does not exist you will find that there are many more failures than successes. Highlighting all the times you almost completed a project “perfectly” isn’t as confidence boosting as all the times “I nailed it!” Your perceptions and self-talk play a huge role in the level of confidence you have and maintain on a day to day basis.
Many times, a perfectionist will complete a project and right before it is about to be completed, they stop, look at it and tweak it again and again. Nothing is good enough. When the time limit of a task has been met, a perfectionist will find that multiple people compliment them on their work, but they don’t feel that it was “their best.” Instead of absorbing and internalizing the success of the task, a perfectionist will highlight what didn’t go well, some struggles they faced, and then hurdle the next mountain of to-do’s.
When you don’t take time to absorb your successes, you are missing an opportunity to build your confidence. Confidence is what you need to hurdle to the next level of your career. Confidence is what you need to take healthy risks on bigger more meaningful projects. You also need confidence to speak up in meetings, interviews, and leadership roles. In fact, confidence is what leaders need to get people to follow them and to make decisions that will bring companies and clients to the next level.
The Fix: Find ways to boost your confidence on a daily basis. During projects, talk nice to yourself. Be compassionate. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and then get back on track. Realize that you can do an awesome job but nothing is perfect. Put forth your best effort, but don’t put the pressure and stress on you that everything must be perfect. This will take away a lot of anxiety, too.
When projects are completed, before jumping on the next bandwagon of to-do’s, celebrate your successes. You can celebrate by sharing in your success with others who compliment you, with loved ones outside of work or even in your journal quietly to yourself. In fact, I encourage clients to keep a journal of their successes so they can reflect back on how much they have achieved year after year. You will be impressed with yourself!
Perfection burns bridges
Perfectionists often hold the world accountable to this faulty mindset, not just themselves. In the workforce you may find that you don’t often delegate tasks out because “Tom doesn’t do it as well as I do”, or “It’ll just be quicker if I do it.” People notice this behavior. First, holding onto all the work may make you more cynical, which impacts other people’s perceptions of you, and secondly, you may begin to give off the perception that you are too good for people.
When you give off the perception that you think less of the people you work with, you show a certain character side of yourself that many people (co-workers and bosses) may not like.
In addition, your support lines at work may not want to assist you when you really end up needing them because they will fear that if they don’t do a task as “perfectly as you,” it will upset you. So, they either avoid you altogether or refuse when you ask for help.
Start trusting people. There was a time when you were learning the ropes and made mistakes. Someone either taught you or you allowed yourself time to learn. Allow others that same respect. Train them, be patient with them and be open to their ideas. They may have some very creative or insightful ways of doing something that you never thought of. This new found open mind of yours may generate new doors for you and your team on production, efficiency and bonding.
Also, use supports and resources. As perfectionists, we get in a habit of portraying that we can do everything and do it well. But the truth is, this is exhausting and not always true. As a perfectionist you may find that there are times when you do need help, but since you built up this reputation of “know it all” you may find that now you can’t reach out to others for help. Instead, begin creating a new reputation today of someone that isn’t to prideful or perfect to ask for help.
Perfection keeps too much on your plate
As we discussed, a perfectionist often holds the world accountable to this mindset, too. Thus before we know it, as we hoard all the tasks because “no one does it like me” we find ourselves with a bunch a to-do’s on our plate. These tasks are often tedious, minuscule or not on path with our goals and bigger dreams. So, if you want to add something major to your agenda that would make you shine or show how great you would be in a different or bigger position, you can’t put that on your plate because it is full and consumed with a bunch of littler roles.
And, should a perfectionist finally succumb to delegating out the smaller tasks, they end up turning into the ever hated, micro manager. The perfectionist has super powers which warp them from hoarder of all tasks to observer over everyone’s shoulder. Talk about exhausting and annoying! The people you are micro-managing are not going to support you fully as their current manager or if you desire to become their leader someday.
Create a list of your goals, direction and dreams in your career. What tasks are currently on your plate that significantly align with that bigger goal? Reflect on what you can delegate out, and do that ASAP. Now, assess what roles or projects you should add on to your plate in order to shine, build credibility, or demonstrate leadership.
What you end up choosing to delegate out, be sure that you don’t leap into the micromanager role. Instead, wear the leader hat. A leader will set checkpoint dates to discuss progress and goals and talk about hiccups with the person you passed a task off to. This is the time to process the situation and guide the person, not ridicule them or minimize their worth.
Perfection Decreases Realistic Thinking:
Many perfectionists are also comparers by nature. Although perfection is subjective, ideas of perfection are all around us. Ideas of perfection are provided to us on front covers of magazines, TV, and the ever-famous “Keeping up With the Jones’.” But, what do all of these “perfect” people have in common? We know nothing about them and we are only hearing and seeing half of the story.
It is not fair for you to compare yourself to someone you know nothing about. Doing so keeps you in a fantasy mindset, not a realistic one. You are comparing yourself to someone with totally different life circumstances than you. The reality is, your personal and professional circumstances are different from everyone else’s, and thus it would be faulty to compare what you do and how you do it, on someone else’s scale of life.
If you set professional goals based on what or how everyone else appears to be doing things and you skip reflecting on your specific life and situation, you set yourself up for serious discouragement or failure. For example, if you want to advance in your company and need a master’s degree, but you are also a single mother who works 50 hours a week, you should not compare yourself to someone who doesn’t have children and works 20-40 hours a week as your bar for how long it should take to get your degree. It may take many people 2 years to get a master’s degree, but if 2 years doesn’t fit your lifestyle for whatever reason, accept that and be more realistic in your time frame. Set yourself up for success.
As you set out to reach your professional goals, focus on self-actualization. This means to be the best you can be and to compare yourself to yourself. Try being better than you were last year, last week, even yesterday. This will help you to be more successful in goal attainment as opposed to finding yourself always discouraged or reflecting on where you went wrong. Work to focus on yourself and being better for your direction in life. Instead of spending energy on trying to figure out other people’s path, redirect your time and energy into yourself. Reflect on your past and use mistakes as learning lesson and use resources to help you achieve success. Compare you, to you.