Are you a Perfectionist? How to Overcome Your Perfectionist Tendencies
Updated: Jan 24
Anyone who knows me will know I HATE LABELLING OURSELVES.
Being a perfectionist is one of those labels that is literally thrown around as a justification for all types of behaviour.
And have you ever heard anyone call themselves a ‘recovering perfectionist’? Just stop!!!
But when it comes to burnout, it is worthwhile having a conversation about whether you notice any perfectionist tendencies emerging that are adding to your load.
Let’s first define what I mean by ‘perfectionist tendencies’.
It's about our attitude and personal standards demanding perfection, a perfect response, no mistakes...ever! Anything less is seen as a failure and can cause you immense pain.
In the Stronger Foundations program we define what’s known as our Achievers. They like to push themselves hard and strive to do more, to be more. Achievers can have a tendency to work too hard, running themselves into the ground.
When assessing how much achiever you might have, think about whether…
- you like constantly achieving?
- are you competitive?
- do you push yourself beyond what others would do?
- are you always busy?
- do you have perfectionist tendencies?
- do you care about not wanting to let people down?
As you can see perfectionist tendencies is part of our definition of being an achiever. These tendencies involve not wanting to settle for less than full effort and sometimes ignoring what’s good for our own health for the sake of the goal at hand.
Now I LOVE THE ENERGY ACHIEVERS bring and I’m known to exhibit all of these tendencies at different times. But in burnout I’ve also had to learn to reign it in at times, for the sake of my own health and sanity!!
What allowed me to move Beyond Burnout was easing of behaviours and attitudes. And one thing I’ve come to understand about my perfectionist tendencies is that the underlying motivation is often to keep us safe.
How does this play out? It might be that our quest for perfection is a response towards love, approval and belonging and away from rejection and isolation. We try to enact control by limiting negative feedback, or ‘rejection’. Instead we shape a world where we consistently receive acceptance and praise - our ‘love’. This in turn makes us feel safe and secure.
It’s a losing strategy that over time becomes increasingly exhausting to maintain!
Perfectionist tendencies are often maladaptive, ingrained patterns that are formed in our childhood. But it’s not all bad news…we can shape our behaviour away from these exhausting, perfectionist tendencies, towards more reasonable expectations.
As Thomas Curran, an expert on the psychology of perfectionism points out,
You can still have high standards without the baggage that comes with perfectionistic thinking. That's where the burnout comes from—a lot of mental energy expended just trying to uphold an image that you want other people to see. Every piece of feedback is an indictment on the self. Life is one big court of appeal for our flaws.
So the question becomes, how do we manage these high expectations of self and still maintain high standards?
Myself and others have employed strategies such as:
1. Consciously looking for examples of where things weren’t perfect but all turned out ok
2. Finding proof that even if you slip up, you are still accepted and ‘loved’
3. Setting reasonable goals and being realistic around timelines that you can commit to
4. Learning to deal with negative criticism without feeling crushed!
5. Looking for the learning in our ‘failures’ and staying engaged in the process
6. Not expecting too much from ourselves every damn time!!
Over time I hope you can come to love that part of yourself that wants to be perfect – you’re most likely a superstar high-performer as a result after all!
Sending you my unconditional love, Sarah
Sarah Vizer is the creator of Beyond Burnout.
As a Leadership and Performance Coach she has dedicated her time to supporting our top professionals reach new levels of high performance, without the burnout.
She offers individual and team support for you and your organisation.
Find out more at: www.sarahvizer.com