Keeping Perfectionism in Check

I have been a self-proclaimed perfectionist for as long as I can remember. I've cried over "B" grades, my concept of "messy" doesn't match the norm, and I've been known to completely tear myself apart at times after receiving "constructive criticism."

Common traits of a perfectionist are:

  • You are eager to please.
  • You are a procrastinator.
  • You take everything personally.
  • You obsess over every little mistake.
  • You get extremely defensive when criticized.
  • You are exceedingly critical of others.

It's obviously okay, and encouraged, to want to excel, but chasing perfection can negatively affect your well-being, which in turn can negatively affect your business. So what do we do about it?

Dr. Edmund Bourne, who has specialized in the treatment of anxiety and other related disorders for the past twenty years, suggests the following guidelines for keeping perfectionism in check:

  • Let go of the idea that your worth is determined by your achievements.
  • Recognize and overcome perfectionist thinking styles (instead of “I should be able to do this right,” “I will do my very best”).
  • Stop magnifying the importance of small errors.
  • Focus on positives.
  • Work on goals that are realistic.
  • Cultivate more pleasure and recreation in your life.
  • Develop a process orientation (“the journey is more important than the destination”).

It’s okay to set high standards, but they must be realistic. If not, you'll be forever reaching for something that is unattainable, setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment. Perfectionism is an "all-or-nothing attitude" that can increase stress and put a damper on productivity, creativity, and, ultimately, profitability. Don't let it!