It sounds like a good thing to be. It’s a good thing to say at a job interview, a good thing to say to toot your own horn at work: who wouldn’t be impressed with someone who’s always striving for perfection?
The reality is that perfectionism does more to hold us back from true growth than it does to push us toward it, and here’s why.
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You may or may not realise it, but your relentless pursuit of perfection is causing you to sabotage your own career.
Growth requires effort, failing, and learning from those failures. If you’re a perfectionist, though, all three of those things are hard to do because they remove the illusion of your perfection, leaving you feeling uncomfortably inadequate.
You are barring yourself from leaving your comfort zone for fear of making a mistake or facing the possibility of being unable to live up to your own impossibly high standards. As long as you stay in your safe zone, you’re depriving yourself of the opportunity to participate in real learning.
Because you’re afraid to have your work be anything less than perfect, you tend to engage in all-or-nothing thinking, which looks like this: “If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all. What’s the point?”
It’s causing you to procrastinate since you know that if you don’t get started on that task, there’s no chance that it won’t be perfect. Worse still, you might end up passing over difficult assignments entirely despite knowing those are the ones that will help you shine, because to you struggle and perfection don’t belong in the same sentence.
When you’re so used to feeding the desire to appear flawless all the time, failure is anathema to you. You avoid even the mere suggestion of the possibility of failing because you hate looking like you don’t have it all together.
Perfectionists tend to suffer from several cognitive distortions that warp the way they see themselves, their actions and the outcomes of those actions, and the world around them.
Generally speaking, It can be hard to move past failure, but a perfectionist is more likely to take even his smallest failures as a deeply personal sign that he’s a total failure in life.
Everyone suffers from self-doubt, without exception. Perfectionists take it to the next level; their pursuit of perfection never lets them win. When they fail, they take it as an indication of their own absolute worthlessness. When they succeed, they don’t believe they did well enough because it wasn’t perfect.
Either way, lacking the self-confidence to see difficult tasks and new challenges through to the end isn’t likely to get you ahead in the workplace.
Being too afraid and unwilling to leave your comfort zone for fear of feeling and looking imperfect also deters you from being ahead of the curve.
In most workplaces today, innovation and experimentation are the keys to unlocking new frontiers of productivity and efficiency. Having the first-mover advantage is hugely profitable, and that applies to both your industry as a whole and to your own career. However, it’s impossible to attain without being willing to try new things.
If you hold on to your perfectionism, you’ll always be scared to experiment with new strategies and techniques. You’ll be slower to adapt, and your innovativeness suffers.
In other words, you’re simply failing to meaningfully value-add to the company and to your team.
So many perfectionists end up completely exhausting themselves because they don’t pace themselves at work. Since perfection is the impossible ideal they’re striving for, they’re constantly over-extending themselves for the sake of it.
Consequently, they burn out prematurely on the job, and it goes downhill from there. They hurt themselves by continuing the wild goose chase for perfection despite being too overworked to properly oversee and complete all their tasks reasonably well.
Paradoxically, perfectionists might also be some of the less productive people in the office. Since they focus on doing each task perfectly, it takes them longer to do produce less output than others in the office who probably aren’t as perfectionistic.