Perfectionism vs. Excellence- Is Being a Perfectionist a Good Thing?

Perfectionism is not the same as striving for excellence.

People who strive for excellence are motivated by their strong desire to succeed for personal satisfaction rather than gratification from others. Their achievements are not generated by the opinions of others or a fear of failure.

Perfectionists, on the other hand, are driven by the fear of judgement from others, of not being good enough. Those who feel the social pressure to achieve perfection tend to think that the better they do, the better they are expected to do. So their search for absolute perfection is a never ending painful pursuit.

Do you strive for excellence or perfectionism? Here are the signs of perfectionism that may put you at risk of extreme stress, anxiety, anger and depression.

  1. Inability to enjoy and celebrate success

Perfectionists do not tend to acknowledge their achievement. It is never good enough, even though the desired outcome is successfully accomplished. There is always something not quite right, they believe they could, and should, have done better by finding flaws in themselves or others. As a result, they can never truly feel the joy of satisfaction and celebrate their success.

  1. Difficulty in allowing and forgiving mistakes

Perfectionists are often overly critical of themselves and others. Instead of seeing mistakes as a learning opportunity, perfectionists do not allow, or forgive, their own mistakes. When a mistake occurs, they tend to berate themselves for being incompetent or even stupid, and these thoughts preoccupy their mind to their detriment, losing all productivity.

  1. Avoidance of taking on challenges that may cause potential failure

Perfectionists like to stick with what they know. If they are presented with an opportunity that requires them to develop more skills, or move outside of their comfort zone, they are likely to turn it down. They are fearful of not being smart enough to tackle a new learning curve and potentially cause failure.

  1. Fear of judgement by others

Perfectionists tend to cover up their insecurities because they are intensely afraid of being judged by others. They would rather pretend, leading others to view them not only as perfect, but making perfection seemingly easy, even if their world is in a disastrous state. They do not allow others to see them as vulnerable and they only like to talk about their achievements, never their challenges or failures.

  1. Struggling to get things done on time and meet deadlines

Perfectionists have the propensity to fix things that are not quite broken. Their creativity and productivity suffers as a result because they are in a constant battle with the decisions and motivation to complete a task or a project. The “what ifs” and expectation of negative outcomes preoccupies their thoughts and the stress can be overwhelming.

Perfectionism can negatively impact work productivity, relationships and ultimately affect your psychological wellbeing.

How can you transform your perfectionism?

Recognise the pull of perfectionism. You can do this by noticing for yourself when you experience extra stress and anxiety as a result of overcompensating.

Acknowledge that in general society today is bombarded with media that portray unrealistic standards of existence, we get easily sucked in and believe these inflated and embellished paradigms.

Accept ‘imperfections’ by lowering your standards and expectations, set yourself attainable, realistic ideals and goals. Successful people build upon their failures, instead of hiding from them. Consistently reminding yourself of this will help you get things into perspective.

Mistakes are not bad or wrong, these are judgements, consider that a mistake is simply something you did that did not work for you, it can be resolved, you can sort it out. You can ask for support, there is no shame because we all make mistakes. A mistake gives you the opportunity to take a look and see what you can do differently next time. This supports you in striving for excellence, because there is always learning.

Acknowledge yourself for the accomplishments you achieved at the end of your day, no matter how small they may seem. Make this a practice, instead of looking back at all the things that did not work and putting yourself down or beating yourself up.

As you begin to practice self-acceptance and focus on the things you have accomplished your perfectionism will slowly diminish. Letting go of the need to dwell on limitations or deficiencies will allow you to feel better about yourself and focus your energy on positive and achievable growth.

Overcoming perfectionist tendencies can be a daunting task. Seeking help from an experienced life coach is key because you can never ‘self coach’ and you will always need someone to hold up the mirror of your perfectionism so that you can transform your powerful limiting beliefs and lessen its power.

Get in touch and schedule a chat to begin your coaching journey with me so that you can begin to move forward in a safe and structured way that will transform your life forever.

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)