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Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to make the right kind of essay or report? Do you spend time looking at what you’ve written and sighed in frustration? If so, you might be suffering from one of the most problematic mindsets in the world today: the perfectionist’s eye.
First of all, you need to understand the exact meaning of perfectionism. In essence, itis the drive to achieve perfection in any and every single situation and detail. This kind of mindset thrives in meeting overly lofty standards and expectations. In other words, perfectionism is about trying to be the absolute best, regardless of how impractical that may be.
A “perfect” example of this mindset can be seen when you cook a meal. Let’s say that you’re making an omelet for breakfast and you want to get everything right. Ideally, you will follow the recipe you found online to the letter. You’ll make sure that the eggs are beaten, the vegetables are chopped, and the oil is prepared. By the time you cook the omelet, you’ll have made a delicious and satisfying meal. Sounds simple, right?
Unfortunately, a perfectionist will quickly look at their meal, look at the picture on the recipe, and immediately think that something is wrong. Maybe they didn’t fold it well enough? Perhaps the eggs weren’t beaten as well as expected? For other people, such things aren’t necessary to enjoy a good omelet. However, for a perfectionist, anything less than the ideal is an absolute failure. Even the slightest error feels like a glaring issue.
That’s what perfectionism is. It’s the mindset of meeting the highest possible standard and allowing no room for error or change. While this might sound good, it’s self-destructive. Perfectionists are rarely satisfied with what they do, even if they do it better than most people. The simplest mistake on a test or the slightest error in spelling might as well be a death mark on their entire output. With perfectionism, the worker feels like a failure even if their work is exceptional, simply because it doesn’t meet their standards.
Dr. Ferrari of the American Psychological Association said that 20% of the U.S. are chronic procrastinators. According to his research, they delay home, work, or school tasks, and they procrastinate their way of life out everything. This is an unfortunate number coming from a nation of “doers” when a huge chunk of the population is actually “waiters” and “laters.” Delaying a task may give short-term satisfaction, but it has a long-term cost on health, finances, work performance, and well-being.
When it comes to perfectionism at work, it carries a lot of weight and expectation for the person involved. You might not see it right away, but there are a few key signs that tell you the story. Here are some important red flags to help you spot perfectionism at work, either for yourself or other people.
At work, perfectionists will likely examine all their outputs and see only the flaws or the missteps. While it’s important to know where to improve, perfectionists are not necessarily trying to find how they do better. Instead, they’re actively critiquing themselves and trying to find even the smallest mistakes to understand why their work isn’t good. What’s worse is that these can often be unnecessary worries or mishaps. For a perfectionist, even the slightest mistake is nothing but a glaring insult that hurts their pride and worth.
Perfectionists are often motivated by fear. They actively try to do well because they don’t want to be ashamed, embarrassed, or uncomfortable with their work. While other workers might be proud or thankful for the outputs they put time into, perfectionists often become panicked and anxious. They fear that even small mistakes will keep them from reaching success, no matter how good or well-made their work is. It’s like a sculptor who can only see the cracks on their masterpiece, even if everyone else sees a work of art.
Perfectionists can also be motivated by the idea of reaching a lofty or unrealistic standard. For them, anything less than this level is shameful and pathetic. What makes this difficult is that a perfectionist demands much more from everyone, including themselves. For that person, there is a vision of what they want to achieve and they will not settle for anything else.
What’s even more frightening is that the standards a perfectionist has can be unhealthy and dangerous. For example, a workaholic might enjoy only three hours of sleep, simply because they want to meet their standard of excellence. While that may sound admirable, there are serious health risks involved. Without proper intervention, that workaholic could get sick, become mentally unstable, or die prematurely.
Lastly, people who suffer perfectionism at work are likely to second-guess everything they do. Because they want to reach the absolute best standard, they are incredibly cautious about what they choose to do. Every choice they make is quickly met with a doubtful thought. In other words, a perfectionist might never be satisfied with their choice because they don’t know if it’ll be good enough.
To illustrate it better, imagine that you’ve been told you’re going to meet with the board of directors in your company. While the details aren’t clear, you have a feeling that it’s a chance to get promoted to your ideal role. Because of that, you plan to go and prepare your clothes for the meeting. You might choose a nice suit and well-polished shoes as your outfit. You may iron your clothes and prepare a handkerchief to look prim and proper. That’s enough, right?
For a perfectionist, that doesn’t even come close. They’ll focus on color-coding the outfits, ensuring every wrinkle is ironed out, and keeping the fabric free of any fur or hair. Then, they’ll worry about finding the right time to dress up to ensure that they aren’t a second too late or early for the meeting. They might even pack all their clothes in a secure bag to ensure it’s in pristine condition before the meeting. Then, by the time they get there, they’ll panic at the thought of wrinkles or poor color coding or whatever else. In short, the perfectionist will spend so much time planning, only to second-guess all the choices they made.
As you can see, perfectionism can be a problematic and difficult state of mind. While you might want the best outcome, expecting only the best is always going to leave you upset. To help you understand it better, here are seven truths about perfectionism at work and what you must remember to fight against it.
The first lesson about perfectionism is that it is an impossible attitude to have, especially since perfection is impossible. No one can come out with a complete 100% in any goal or task they have. Sure, you could score all the right answers on a test, but that’s not the same as planning for the real world. There’s never going to be a plan that is completely foolproof, let alone one that guarantees total success. The best you can do is to make do with the real world and try to find the positives in every situation. In short, you need to remember that it’s okay to be imperfect. It’s only natural.
Here’s what you need to remember: it’s okay to make mistakes or to fail in your pursuits. Unlike what the movies may say, losing isn’t as bad as it seems. In fact, the greatest minds and faces in all of history have made crucial mistakes in the past. For example, Steve Jobs was once kicked out of his own company. If he could bounce back from that, which he did, then it’s possible for you to become stronger than ever. Remember that mistakes are normal. They can even be the wake-up call needed to find the answers you have been searching for.
Though you might’ve heard the phrase above, it’s more apparent for perfectionists. People with that mindset tend to overanalyze every single action they make. They’ll comb through every detail just to make sure there are no flaws; if one is found, they might freak out or berate themselves.
If you want to live a happier life, you have to learn the difference between complaining and constructive criticism. In the latter, you can look at the mistakes or errors you make in order to see where you can improve. It’s not about where you slipped up, but finding out what you can do better next time. As long as you focus on moving forward, you’ll be at peace and find it easier to enjoy success.
When it comes to perfectionism at work, people often set unrealistic or difficult standards. There are horror stories about workaholics who junk entire projects because it doesn’t meet their expectations. Whether it’s the layout of a new building or the thesis of a graduate student, perfectionism can set the bar so high that no one can reach it.
Do yourself a favor and focus on what is realistically possible in your life. Set out goals or objectives that sound reasonable and doable. They can difficult but they shouldn’t be impossible. For example, working overtime for a week is rough but necessary under the right circumstances. Working for over 16 hours a day, especially when you don’t need to, is just maddening. As long as you know what is doable and maintainable, you should consider it for your plans.
One of the biggest flaws in a perfectionist mindset is the “lone wolf” mentality. Perfectionists often try to do everything in a project themselves, either because they don’t trust others to do it right or because they fear something going wrong. Not only is this tiring, but it can be demoralizing for people who want to help.
Take a deep breath and remember that the colleagues you have can be powerful allies. Whether you’re working on a short project or a long-term plan, having a co-worker to help is always a safe bet. This way, you can build a new relationship with them and see where they excel at. Once you learn to trust others, you can start to delegate tasks to them. By giving them more responsibility, you show your confidence in their skills and your trust in their dedication.
Picture this: you’re going on stage at an awards ceremony to receive an honorary trophy or certificate. As you walk up to the stage, you can’t help but feel a twinge of fear as you imagine falling off the steps. You get to the podium, only to hyperventilate as you fear that someone will run to the stage and ruin your moment. By the time you get through your speech, you begin to walk away but freeze, wondering if your win was nothing but a mistake.
As horrible and infamous as these events sound, they’re also highly unlikely to happen. Perfectionists may often fear the worst-case scenario without realizing that they are rare. It’s like someone being afraid to step outside because of the chance that they’ll be struck by lightning. It’s highly improbable, right? So, before you start panicking about making mistakes, look at what the absolute worst outcome could be. Does it sound plausible at all? If so, think of how many things would have to happen to get there. Soon enough, you’ll find that the most horrible outcomes are mostly made up in the mind.
Lastly, it’s important that you know when to keep going and when to accept things for what they are. A perfectionist will spend as long as they want to make sure things are done their way. Sometimes, this takes away precious time from other tasks. For example, a student who spends all day studying for an exam might be so focused that they forget to do homework for their other classes.
To make your life easier, try time blocking to keep your schedule concise and clear. When the timer for studying or for writing runs out, drop everything and proceed to the next task. It might seem troublesome, but if you work within a deadline, you can learn to manage your time more effectively.
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