Is perfectionism holding you back?


Have you ever been put off from starting or completing something because you were afraid you wouldn’t be able to do it ‘perfectly’?

There is nothing wrong with aiming for the best possible outcome, but there are downsides to perfectionism. Those of us with perfectionist tendencies, can put an awful amount of pressure on ourselves trying to obtain exceptionally high standards. If we are not careful, this constant pursuit of perfection can have a detrimental effect on our stress levels and a negative impact on our health and wellbeing.

My first blog post will explore some of the perils of perfectionism.

 The perils of perfectionism

  1. Feeling a fraud

Feeling a fraud appears to disproportionately affect women. Often referred to as ‘imposter syndrome’ it relates to the fear that others are going to find out that we are not the person we would like them to think we are.

You may have worked really hard to achieve that promotion and keep on receiving praise about the wonderful job you are doing. However, you keep on having thoughts like ‘any moment now, they are going to realise that I am not up to the job!”.

  1. Inflexible or overgeneralised high standards

Perfectionists often have unrealistic expectations and rigid beliefs. For example, you may find yourself starting a lot of sentences with: ‘should’/’must’/’got to’/’have to’. This could apply to the expectations you have of yourself and other people.

  1. Fear of failure leading to rejection, criticism or disapproval

This fear of failure can lead to perfectionists blowing things out of proportion and, as the old saying goes, “making mountains out of molehills”. For example, your fear of delivering a less than perfect presentation leads you down the road of convincing yourself that you will lose your job and overnight become homeless if you are not able to deliver the perfect pitch.

  1. Procrastination

Perfectionism is often a cause of procrastination. You may spend too long on tasks trying to get them ‘just right’, go very slowly to avoid making any mistakes, or avoid the task all together if you think you may do a less-than-perfect job.

  1. Not learning or focussing on avoiding error

Without trying new things, you will not be able to learn from experience and change. If you procrastinate, not wanting to put yourself in a position where you could make a mistake, you are likely to avoid situations and learning opportunities.

  1. High levels of anxiety before, during and after a performance

Perfectionists may dread making mistakes, particularly in situations where they feel their credibility is at stake. For example, a perfectionist may dread being exposed as a ‘phoney’ if they are not able to perform perfectly and will point out the smallest imperfections in their performance.

If your self-worth is linked to you achieving these unrealistically high standards, then you are bound to feel low when things don’t go as you planned. One of the best pieces of advice I received from a manager who could see I was putting unnecessarily high expectations on myself, was: “Sometimes good enough, is good enough.” 

If any of the points in this article resonate with you, please do not despair as help is at hand. Now that I have finally overcome my procrastination about blogging, I am determined to write more! Please look out for my future blog posts on www.mandymurdoch.co.uk, where I plan to share with you my knowledge of psychological coaching techniques and tips for changing unhelpful thinking patterns into more helpful ways of thinking. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2019!

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