Are you the sort of person who feels you always need to put in at least 110% on everything you do? Are you super driven and have high expectations? Do you feel like you can’t rely on others to do things properly? If so, you might find you’re a perfectionist. Roughly speaking, a perfectionist is someone who is driven to appear, feel, and actually be perfect in all scenarios. Doesn’t sound that bad though right? Isn’t it a good thing to make sure everything is perfect before you finish it? Well, yes and no.
Yes, it’s great to want to do a really good job of what you’re doing, and it means that people know they can always expect quality output from you, but perfectionism also keeps you stuck, procrastinating, and leads you to burn out pretty darn quickly. Perfectionists are usually over critical of themselves, which leads to lower confidence and self-esteem when they fail to reach their own impossibly high standards.
Our culture may suggest that perfectionism is a good thing and perhaps maybe it's even honourable to be a perfectionist. Think about it for a moment. Especially as women, we’re expected to have the great career, always look our best, maintain our home, cook the meals, be an awesome parent, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, friend etc. and so on. And I bet you may have even felt good at some point when someone called you a perfectionist. I’ll be honest here and raise my hand to say that I previously have.
Having high standards and being driven for success is not a bad thing at all, but that’s different to perfectionism. Perfectionism robs us of our time, our energy, and our ability to actually enjoy the success we’re so busy seeking.
Here’s some signs you might be a perfectionist:
1. You’re a ‘People-Pleaser’
You never want to let anyone down, so you take on tasks you shouldn’t, go above and beyond expectations, and can never say no to someone asking you for something. You want to impress everyone if you feel like you’ve disappointed someone, you are really hard on yourself.
2. You have ‘All-or-Nothing’ Thinking
You set massive goals and work really hard to achieve them all. There’s no in-between or middle ground of success and failure. You either have done something perfectly (which is good), or you have failed (obviously which is bad), and almost perfect counts as a failure.
3. You’ve only got Eyes for the Prize
You’re always super focussed on the end result and can’t take the time to enjoy the journey or the experience you’re having. You’re so concerned with hitting the goal and avoiding what you feel is failure, that you can’t appreciate the process you’re going through. When you’ve reached your goal, you move straight onto the next target without giving yourself some down time for reflection.
4. You’re a Procrastinator
You feel like you need to wait until the time is right or until you’re properly prepared before you commence working on your goals. You fear failure so you spend more time worrying about what could go wrong, mistakes you might make, or how it could be done better, and you put yourself in a state of analysis paralysis. You become immobilised and therefore don’t start anything at all. Procrastination then leads to greater feelings of failure and the cycle continues.
5. There’s No Room for Mistakes
For a perfectionist, there’s no option for failure. You’ll work yourself into the ground, sometimes forgoing sleep or food to give yourself the time you need to reach your goal. You’re the first to spot a mistake and will be extremely hard on yourself when you make one. To you, a mistake is proof that you’re inadequate and need to try harder, rather than simply being the learning opportunity that it is.
6. Success is Never Enough
Irrespective of what you achieve, you’ll never be satisfied. You’ll always have the next goal to work towards, something bigger, shinier, or more audacious.
7. You find it hard to work in a Team
Because you have a specific idea of how things should be done along with your extremely high goals and expectations, you find it difficult to find the right people to work with in a team environment as most people won’t meet your expectations; and if they do, they might find it’s difficult to work with you and your expectations of them.
8. You’re your Worst Critic
You are always super hard on yourself, are quick to criticise everything that you do, and never give yourself credit for your success. It doesn’t matter if someone tells you how amazing your work is, you’ll point out the mistakes you’ve made and how it could have been better. You’re pretty quick to beat yourself up over any minor mistake you may have made and will dwell on it for a super long time.
9. It’s Hard to Celebrate Success
So often perfectionists will put their success down to sheer luck, play down their achievement, or focus on the minor issues they came across during the journey of reaching their goal. You'll berate yourself for not reaching your goal sooner, or for having to work so hard to reach it in the first place. After all, if you were smarter, it would have been easier to reach the goal. This leaves you constantly feeling unsatisfied in your life because you can never be happy with your achievements and are always looking for the next thing to check of your list instead of relishing in the success you’ve just had.
10. Low Self Esteem
Since a perfectionist will be overly critical of themselves and fail to acknowledge any of their achievements, their self-esteem and confidence is slowly eroded as they never feel they meet their own expectations, and they believe that if they can’t even meet their own expectations, they must definitely be disappointing others as well. Since you believe you’re constantly letting yourself and others down, your self-esteem is continually taking massive hits.
People that have perfectionism are often super successful, so having the tendencies is not a bad thing at all, but you need to remember there’s a difference between being a high achiever and being a perfectionist. Being a high achiever is what you want to aim for. Keeping yourself in check will help you to make sure that you don’t let yourself get stuck in a loop of procrastination that is based on fear of failure, and that you don’t work so hard on things that don’t require that much effort really otherwise you’ll burn yourself out, and recovery from there can be a long road.
Aiming for progress instead of perfection will help you keep yourself motivated, energised, and increasing your performance, rather than the self-criticism and feelings of failure that come with not reaching the ever-increasing expectations of perfectionism.
Do you have any of these traits? Recognising when you do is the first step in the right direction so you can start retraining yourself to have healthier responses.
If you’re finding perfectionism is impacting your ability to fully enjoy your successes or is stopping you from moving forward, send me a DM on Facebook or an email to email@example.com so we can have a chat to see if working with me as your coach would be a good fit for you.