5 Reasons Perfectionism Prevents Success
Leslie has always gotten straight A’s. Leslie’s family and teachers constantly told her how intelligent and hard-working she was. She continued to work for their praise all through college and law school.
Leslie just landed the perfect job at a law firm, but something isn’t right. Leslie feels like she’s struggling to stay ahead. Her superiors pile project after project onto her desk before she can finish anything. Her list of to-dos has grown so long that she’s become gripped by fear. She’s started showing up late to work, or calling in sick altogether. I’m a failure, she thinks. For the first time in her life, Leslie doesn’t know what to do.
Leslie might not think she’s a perfectionist at all; she’s driven, ambitious, and hard-working—but a perfectionist? No.
Ambition and drive can be wonderful characteristics; however, if the most consistent measure of your personal value is whether or not you succeed at everything you do, perfectionism—not failure—could be the culprit behind your blues.
Here are 5 reasons perfectionism prevents success:
1. Perfectionism distorts self-worth.
Perfectionism props up the dangerous myth that you need to jump over endless hurdles, before you can feel good about yourself. Rather than doing something simply for enjoyment, you might start to seek out activities solely for the validation they provide. Perfectionism also tells you that you need to hear from others that you have value, before you believe it yourself.
2. Perfectionism motivates with fear.
When you’re wholly invested in outcomes, anticipation and fear become driving forces. You might feel consumed by thoughts of what will happen if a presentation doesn’t go well. You become nervous and agitated. Perhaps you take on too much responsibility for yourself, in order to ensure that nothing goes wrong. When fear is a steady hand on your back, pressing you constantly forward, you can become so focused on not making any missteps that you miss out on what’s going on around you.
3. Perfectionism leads to avoidance.
Surprisingly, bringing a perfectionist attitude to every situation can lead you to neglect your work and responsibilities. Chasing achievements entirely for the approval of others can be frightening. Maybe you’ve learned to avoid completing projects in order to stave off failure and rejection. Maybe you’re so scared of failing that you can’t commit to a certain approach. A fear of making mistakes often carries over into your relationships, leading you to break off relationships before anything can go wrong.
4. Perfectionism emphasizes the negative.
Perfectionism functions by constantly scanning your horizon for gaps and hurdles. Rather than focusing on all the time and work you put into a project, you see what could be better. Perfectionism’s eternal scanner doesn’t turn off even when you’ve done a good job—you still see how it could have gone differently, weighing the outcomes of each scenario that didn’t happen.
5. Perfectionism burns you out.
It makes sense that if fear, avoidance, and low self-confidence eat at your dinner table, sleep in your bed, and follow you to work every day, you’re probably feeling pretty tired. You might even feel guilty and ashamed. You can’t seem to turn your bad thoughts off. Rather than focusing on what’s going right, you feel weighed down by what isn’t happening. You’re no longer present.
So what’s the alternative?
If you’re trapped in an emotional cycle that requires regular confidence boosts from successes at work or at home, getting off that hamster wheel can be really difficult. You can take small steps to a happier you by practicing—practice authenticity, practice self-compassion, and practice enjoying rather than racing through your day. You can learn to no longer need those regular boosts from the outside.
Counseling Services Available for Overcoming Perfectionism
If you’re ready to take the next step in overcoming perfectionism, contact one of our counselors for help. Our therapists in Houston, Tx can help you get started. To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.
Read more about Overcoming Perfectionism
Sign up to be notified of group and workshop dates.