How Perfectionism Can Be A Negative Attribute

by Cassandra Bustamante

Perfectionists are hard working, goal achieving and committed to their work. They are people you know you can rely on to get the job done right with essentially no margin of error. They have been recognized for their achievements all throughout their lives and have high expectations of themselves and, occasionally, of those around them.

A typical driven, high achieving person celebrates their successes, views their failures as learning opportunities, and is open to new experiences. On the surface, perfectionists are seemingly no different than their high achieving counterparts; however, a perfectionist differs in their motivation to achieve, reaction to stress, and coping with failures.

Unfortunately, reaching goals for a perfectionist can be daunting, painful, and filled with anxiety. Today in Gen-Y’s rapidly changing environment, being a perfectionist in your career is going to hold you back. This mindset will prevent you from challenging yourself, taking necessary risks, and moving onto the next feat towards success.

1)  Stifling Ambitions

The problem with perfectionism is that it stems from a fear of failure. When you’re critical of yourself, that inner voice of self-doubt starts to creep up and keep you from challenging yourself to progress towards your goals. That fear prevents you from making a move – you become afraid you’re unable to meet the high expectations of your dreams.

So you decide to play it safe and stick to things you know you’re good at, rarely subjecting yourself to failure. Many perfectionists choose to stick to working jobs they have no passion for, despite their superb skills, rather than actively using them to push toward their ambitions.

Instead of conjuring up an exaggerated list of all your weaknesses and perceived painstaking failures that make you believe you can’t achieve, focus on all the reasons you can: your strengths. Your strengths can and have taken you this far, and if challenge yourself, you can build them while you continue to learn and grow your skills. Don’t undersell yourself; you won’t reach your full potential if you hold yourself back with negative thoughts.

2)  Not Being Open to Experiences

When you’re not open to new experiences, you miss out on a lot of opportunities to discover new interests, people, and passions. When you are closed off, these limits you place upon yourself bring unnecessary stress and make you miss out on what life has to offer. More importantly, it reduces opportunities for creativity. There is no creativity without experimentation and in these fast paced times of Gen-Y, creativity is a highly valued asset for the sheer fact that it leads to innovation.

When you expose yourself to the unfamiliar and venture into uncharted territory, you’re bound to stumble upon opportunities to learn more about yourself. Go out and explore new projects that spark your interest. Understand that you can always improve and broaden your skills. Your mind is a powerful thing; you have the ability to shift your focus to anything of your choosing, including your own self-limiting beliefs.

3)  Procrastination

Instead of taking the first step to start a new project, you are plagued by the overwhelming anxiety of not meeting the standards, so you don’t make a move at all. You take forever to begin something because you don’t want to make a mistake along the way. Too much attention to detail can overwhelm you to the point of leaving a project incomplete until time forces its pressure to perform. It might take you twice as long to finish a project, in fear of producing anything less than perfect.

Everyone knows that procrastination is the enemy; it’s better to just do and take action. Lean into it - you will not know exactly what you need to do before you make a decision, but you can figure it out as you go. Be flexible and accept that perfection is not synonymous to excellence. Excellence, in the personal sense, is about striving to be your personal best; perfection is about meeting an unrealistic ideal.

4)  Stress and Anxiety

It makes you unhappy when you don’t need to be. You become drained by excess stress when you try to complete a task with anything less than perfection as the acceptable standard. When you’re under heavy amounts of stress, the anxiety can take over, robbing you of your sleep at night by over thinking. You can become so worried about things outside of your control that pose a threat to reaching perfection, or beat yourself up over minor setbacks because you can’t help but perceive them as a personal failure.

Our demanding society and daily trials in our lives cause enough stress - you don’t have to create anymore for yourself. Be in the present and give your full attention to the activities you engage in. Focus on being in the moment and enjoying yourself and the joy that it brings you. Enjoy the process of reaching your goals, not just the end result. You will have setbacks and make mistakes; everyone does. When they happen, don’t dwell. Move on, learn, and progress.

Photo courtesy Tumblr