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Is perfectionism holding you back?

Is perfectionism holding you back?
27 March 2020 John Moore

Are you very critical of your own work? Do you spend a lot of time working over the smallest of details? Do you often fret about failing and get angry with yourself when you do? Chances are you are suffering from the same condition as I did.

I was a perfectionist

When I discovered being a perfectionist wasn’t a blessing, but a curse, my life changed. Having been a perfectionist for years, I was proud of being one and couldn’t understand why other people’s standards were not up to mine. Being a perfectionist, I worked hard and often resented that I was working longer hours than most of my colleagues.

I was a ‘100 per cent person’, but at the same time a disappointed person. Always chasing perfection is tiring and leads to feelings of frustration, dissatisfaction, poor self-esteem when you underperform and an overall sense of unhappiness.

The BIG LESSON I learned as a perfectionist was to let go. I had to accept that I could not control everything and that most of the time, it is okay to be happy with a piece of work ‘being as good as it can be’, rather than the perfect ideal I had in my mind.

Accepting this new value was easier said than done. I had to almost reset my brain and to make a conscious effort to accept something less than perfect. It didn’t mean dropping my standards but accepting that often good is ‘good enough’. Instead of wasting time, energy and resources on minor improvements and marginal gains that more often than not didn’t change the overall result, I was free to work on the next thing and the next project. No longer did I waste time procrastinating before starting a task in the pursuit of perfection. My productivity went up and so did my levels of personal satisfaction.

I’m not suggesting you abandon standards – making sure blog posts are error free is important – but writing them and sharing my experience and expertise is more important. Having a customer service process that achieves 95% customer satisfaction is more important than ‘crossing every T and dotting every I’.

So, what actions can you take to curb your perfectionist tendencies:

  1. Become aware of your tendencies

Record your perfectionistic thoughts when they arise – this will help you to recognise them and to put a stop to them in the future.

  1. Remember and accept that failure is okay 

Cultivate a new value that mistakes happen, but they provide opportunities for learning something new.

  1. Be realistic when you set goals for yourself

If you always ‘set the bar too high’, you will often experience frustration and disappointment. You might like 100% closure rate on sales opportunities but is that really possible?

  1. Focus on the positives 

We all know that positive thoughts lead to positive results, so make a conscious effort to be positive and record your successes – this will help you build up your self-esteem and to stay motivated.

  1. Be conscious of how much you criticise yourself 

Don’t beat yourself up too much otherwise it will overshadow your overall achievement.

Finally, whilst I used to consider my perfectionism a strength, more often than not it was in fact a weakness. Reflect on the effect it is really having on the way you work, your level of frustration and disappointment and start turning your drive, commitment and work ethic into something more positive in which ‘near-perfect’ is a win as well!




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John Moore has over 20 years experience of training and developing Managers, Coaches, Consultants and businesses. As Managing Director of Exponential Training, John researches, speaks, blogs and writes about how to improve performance. He also designs and delivers engaging, fun and interactive learning programmes. John is a Fellow Chartered Manager and has worked with managers and organisations in over 20 different countries.