What's the Problem With Perfectionism?

Can you recognize the difference between striving for excellence and pursuing perfection? Certainly it is a good thing to have high standards and give your best effort at work. Perfectionists, however, have difficulty recognizing when enough is enough.

The perfectionist is driven by more than the desire to do well. Perfectionists equate their self-worth with achievement and flawless performance. To feel good about themselves, they must produce perfect work and see their mistakes as evidence of their lack of self-worth. In their pursuit of perfection–which is unattainable–perfectionists end up feeling bad about themselves most of the time, no matter how much they achieve.

Because perfectionists are driven to keep trying until they get things "perfect," they often get hung up on meaningless details and spend more time on projects than necessary. The result? According to a 10-year study of over 9,000 managers and professionals, perfectionism at work makes for reduced job performance, depression, alienated colleagues and stress-related illness.

Are you suffering due to your own desires to be perfect?

  • You feel constant pressure to achieve
  • You criticize yourself when you're not perfect
  • You feel you haven't done enough no matter how hard you try
  • You either want to do something "just right," or not at all
  • You demand perfection from other people

If any of the statements above feel familiar to you, you could struggle with perfectionism. To eliminate perfectionist thinking, begin by recognizing the difference between an acceptable level of performance and the need to achieve perfection. Some tasks do deserve meticulous preparation and execution, but most projects can be completed on time with a more realistic effort.