Leadership and Professional Growth

Perfectionism: Is It Holding You Back?

January 11, 2017   /
Nutrition411 Staff

Everyone wants to do a good job, but is your obsession with perfectionism holding you back? Do you exhibit any of these following symptoms of perfectionism? If so, check out some of the tips that follow.

Symptoms of perfectionism

  • Do you insist that your physical environment is perfect (having a regimented cleaning schedule, needing belongings to match perfectly, etc)?
  • Do you become very upset with yourself if you perceive yourself as having made a mistake?
  • Do you notice others’ imperfections and weaknesses more than you think others likely do?
  • Do you sometimes feel that if you do not maintain perfection, others will reject you?
  • Do you have a very unchangeable and moralistic outlook?
  • Do you reject the idea of change, fearing that you are incapable of mastering the new task or lifestyle?
  • Would you rather do everything yourself than delegate anything to anyone who may not do it as well as you would?
  • Do you consider your achievements more important than your personality?
  • Would you rather quit a project that is not going well, rather than continue on and have less than perfect results?
  • Do you tend to want to keep your projects secret from others in case you do not succeed?
  • Would you rather not set any goals for yourself, than set some that you may fail to achieve?
  • Do you often feel ashamed or guilty about your behavior or work?
  • Do you need a very ordered and organized environment?
  • Do you use alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, shopping, sex, or other risky behavior to escape from your imperfection?
  • Do you sometimes miss deadlines, because you are too busy trying to make sure that everything is just right?
  • Do you react defensively to any perceived criticism?
  • Have others told you that you are not willing to compromise?
  • Do you become impatient with others on a regular basis?
  • Do you hate the thought of appearing ‘average’ or achieving an average score on performance evaluations, etc?
  • Do you become very angry with yourself if you fail to complete all of your ‘to do’ items for the day?
  • When you make a small mistake, such as a driving mistake that does not result in an accident, does it often haunt you for hours or days?
  • Do you suffer stress-related illnesses, such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, or chest pains?

Tips for perfectionists
If you think you are a perfectionist, these tips may help:

  • Forgive yourself for small mistakes
  • Set realistic and flexible time frames for goal achievement
  • Practice “thought stopping” (recognizing the thought processes that cause problems in your life and literally telling yourself to “stop” whenever you become aware that you are having these thoughts); because an important part of thoughts is made up of images and feelings, many people may use “thought stop” whenever they think of a particular image in their head, or are suffering from negative feelings or moods.
  • Feel proud of successes and eliminate the “yeah, but” response when you are complimented.
  • Accept that very few tasks or projects go smoothly from beginning to end; believe that the next step will go better.
  • Realize that “succeeding” does not always mean you need to rank as “the best.”
  • Develop a positive, trustworthy, and supportive social support system.
  • Try breaking each goal into small sequential steps, rather than setting broad goals.
  • Become mindful of the moment and the process, rather than focusing solely on the end result.
  • Ask yourself what you are afraid will happen if you fail to achieve perfection.
  • Look at mistakes as a learning experiment and a chance to avoid making mistakes in the future.
  • Learn to prioritize and delegate the tasks that are less personally important to others.

References and recommended readings
Perfectionism. Counseling Center, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign website. http://counselingcenter.illinois.edu/brochures/perfectionism. Accessed July 2, 2015.

Perfectionism. Psychology Today website. http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/perfectionism. Accessed July 2, 2015.