July 29, 2019 by Sara Redman
Working with leaders for so many years has afforded me the great privilege of getting a glimpse into the human psyche. One powerful trend I often encounter is the perfectionistic mindset. To strive for perfection is very compelling, almost intoxicating in our western world. The need to achieve, attain, create and present as ‘perfect’ is arguably one of the most dangerous addictions of the modern day. Strong words I know, but seriously, I have seen the devastating effects of perfectionistic standards on hundreds of people, including myself. I imagine that you can personally relate to this statement or have someone you know who subscribes to perfectionism.
So why is perfectionism so attractive? There are benefits of signing up to perfection – it provides a strong motivation to achieve and get quality results. It lets us believe that yes, we CAN be perfect. And it is something that most people get, or even admire, so perfectionism can feel like a point of connection with others.
But the costs are big. Perfectionism is exhausting over time. It can become a way of competing and comparing our self to others – ‘I am not as perfect as they are’- which ultimately can be soul destroying. Perfectionism by definition is unattainable. We cannot always be perfect – no mistakes, oversights, or errors. So, in essence, if we strive for perfection, we are setting ourselves up to fail. Current research by Brene Brown shows that perfectionistic behaviour enmeshes us in a prison like existence where we become trapped:
‘When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun and fear is that annoying backseat driver’
So, what do we do? Once you have seen that you are practicing perfectionism, you have self-awareness which is the first step towards positive change. You can choose to keep perfectionism, consciously knowing the benefits and consequences. Or you can create a new source of inspiration.
I decided to let go of perfection several years ago. Instead, I have chosen to work towards ‘excellence’ which is one of my personal values. Excellence has many benefits and minimal costs. It is so much more forgiving, yet still allows me to focus on quality and value, and striving to deliver an outstanding, exceptional result for myself, my life and our clients. So far, excellence is proving to be a worthwhile shift in my focus…..
How do you handle perfectionism in yourself? We would love to hear your thoughts, challenges and strategies. Let’s keep the conversation going!