Inspiring Reminders to Think, Live and Love Well

Inspiring Reminders to Think and Live Well

Monday, March 28, 2011

Being Perfect: Is it Worth it to Even Try?

"I'm a Perfectionist" is the "perfect" weakness to admit to at a job interview.  It makes you sound like a high achiever, a super-hard worker with attention to detail and dedicated focus on getting it done "just right".  So, why, then, is it seen as a weakness also?  Quite simply, it really hurts, and in the long run, doesn't work anyway.  While a "perfectionist style" may actually seem to lead to success, it actually differs dramatically from the more successful "high achieving style". 
  1. All or Nothing Thinking:  The Perfectionist will only accept a perfect result in meeting his sometimes unrealistically high standards.  Close is not good enough, it might as well be failure.  The High Achiever sets high goals too, but can be satisfied with great, or excellent.  
  2. Negative & Judgmental:  Perfectionists are more critical of themselves, as well as others.  They focus on their own mistakes, and tend not to be supportive of others either.  High achievers are able to look more constructively at their mistakes, and act in more encouraging ways.
  3. Product vs. Process Thinking:  While both set high goals for themselves, the High Achiever is much better at enjoying the process of getting there, and is able to more easily change the direction of her goals as she attempts to meet them.  The Perfectionist is much more likely to tell herself, "I can only be happy when I've achieved my goal, not until".  
  4. Learning from Mistakes vs. Wallowing in Failure:  The High Achiever is more able to objectively look at what went wrong, and plan strategic learning from his experience of failure.  The Perfectionist is much more likely to become mired in depression by beating himself up.  
Perfectionists may also suffer from:
  • Fear of Failure:  When failure holds such dire consequences, it becomes terrifying to contemplate.  This often results in:
  • Procrastination: Just starting a task may cause so much anxiety, that the Perfectionist stays stuck in doing nothing at all - paralyzed by not finding the perfect first step.  
All in all, striving for perfect leads to stress, anxiety and low self-esteem.

The good news is that real change is possible.  Treatment for perfectionism involves cognitive behavioral strategies - basically moving from a rigid thinking style to one which is more solution-focused, realistically positive, and encouraging.  Tomorrow's blog will explore tips to overcoming perfectionism. 

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