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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

5 Reasons Why Being a Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect

5 Reasons Why Being a Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect
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As a perfectionist, do you spend a lot of time “perfecting” your work so that everything comes out the way you want it to?

I believe many of us are perfectionists in our own right. We set high bars for ourselves and put our best foot forward to achieve them. We dedicate copious amounts of attention and time to our work to maintain our high personal standards. Our passion for excellence drives us to run the extra mile, never stopping, never relenting.

Dedication towards perfection undoubtedly helps us to achieve great results. Yet, there is a hidden flip side to being perfectionists that we may not be aware of. Sure, being a perfectionist and having a keen eye for details help us improve and reach our goals. 

However, as ironic as it might sound, a high level of perfectionism prevents us from being our best as we begin to set unrealistic standards and let the fear of failure hold us back.

Below, we’ll go over some of the reasons why being a perfectionist may not be so perfect and how it can inhibit you from being the best version of yourself.

Why Perfectionism Isn’t So Perfect?

1. Less Efficiency

As a perfectionist, even when you are done with a task, you linger to find new things to improve on. This lingering process starts off as 10 minutes, then extends to 30 minutes, then to an hour, and more. We spend way more time on a task than is actually required.

In order to be truly efficient, we need to strike a balance between the best we could possibly do and the level of “good” a specific project requires. No one will expect perfection from you because it will ultimately be impossible to attain. Do the best you can in a reasonable time frame, and allow yourself to put it into the world.

2. Less Effectiveness

We do little things because they seem like a “good addition” without consciously thinking about whether they’re really necessary. Sometimes, not only do the additions add no value, but they might even ruin things.

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For example, over-cluttering a presentation with unneeded details can make it confusing for listeners. Jam-packing a blog layout with too many add-ons can make it less user friendly. Sometimes, consistency is key, and if you continuously change things, this will become much more difficult.

3. More Procrastination

Our desire to “perfect” everything makes us overcomplicate a project. What’s actually a simple task may get blown out of proportion to the extent that it becomes subconsciously intimidating. This makes us procrastinate on it, waiting for the ever “perfect” moment before we get to it. This “perfect” moment never strikes until it is too late.

Instead of overthinking it, set small objectives if you have a big project ahead of you. This will help you tackle it step-by-step and complete it before the deadline.

If you need help tackling procrastination, check out this article.

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4. Missing the Bigger Picture

As a perfectionist, you get so hung up on details that you forget about the bigger picture and the end vision. It’s not uncommon to see better jobs done in pruning the trees than growing the forest.

Take a step back and remind yourself of your end goal. Try setting a timeline to help yourself stick to the work that needs to be done without ruminating on things that could be improved.

5. Stressing Over Unfounded Problems

We anticipate problems before they crop up, and come up with solutions to address these problems. It becomes an obsession to pre-empt problems. As it turns out, most of these problems either never surface or don’t matter that much.

When Perfectionism Becomes a Problem

The problem isn’t perfectionism specifically. Perfectionism helps us to continuously strive for excellence and become better, so it can really be a good thing.The problem is when setting high standards turns into an obsession, so much so that the perfectionist becomes neurotic over gaining “perfection” and refuses to accept anything less than perfect. In the process, s/he misses the whole point altogether and does damage to their mental health. Such perfectionists can be known as “maladaptive perfectionists.”[1] Maladaptive perfectionists spend so much time setting high expectations and striving for perfection that they increase levels of depression and anxiety. 

Diagram showing how a healthy perfectionist and a maladaptive perfectionist respond to failure.

    The answer isn’t to stop being a perfectionist or high achiever. It’s to be conscious of our perfectionist tendencies and manage them accordingly. We want to be healthy perfectionists who are truly achieving personal excellence, not maladaptive perfectionists who are sabotaging our own personal growth efforts[2].

    How to Be a Healthy Perfectionist

    1. Draw a Line

    We have the 80/20 rule, where 80% of output can be achieved in 20% of time spent. We can spend all our time getting the 100% in, or we can draw the line where we get majority of the output, and start on a new project.

    Obsessing over details is draining and tedious, and it doesn’t help us accomplish much. I used to review a blog post 3-4 times before I published. All the reviewing only amounted to subtle changes in phrasing and the occasional typos. It was extremely ineffective, so now I scan it once or twice and publish it.

    2. Be Conscious of Trade-offs

    When we spend time and energy on something, we deny ourselves the opportunity to spend the same time and energy on something else. There are tons of things we can do, and we need to be aware of the trade-offs involved, so we can better draw a line.

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    For example, if some unimportant blog admin work takes an hour, that’s an hour I could spend on content creation or blog promotion. Being conscious of this helps me make a better choice on how to spend my time.

    3. Get a View of the Big Picture

    What is the end objective? What is the desired output? Is what you are doing leading you to the overall vision?

    As a perfectionist, to make sure my attention is set on the end point, I have a monthly and weekly goal sheet my blog that keeps me on track. Every day, I refer to it to make sure what I’m doing contributes to the weekly goals, and ultimately the monthly goals to keep me on track.

    4. Focus on Big Rocks

    Big rocks are the important, high impact activities. Ask yourself if what you are doing makes any real impact. If not, stop working on it.

    If it’s a small yes, deprioritize, delegate it to someone else, or get it done quickly. Seek out high impact tasks and spend time on them instead. Knowing the big picture helps you know the big rocks that contribute to the end goal.

    5. Set a Time Limit

    Parkinson’s Law

    tells us work will take however long we want it to take. If you give yourself 4 hours, you will finish it in 4 hours. If you give yourself 3 hours, you will finish within 3 hours. If you don’t give yourself any time limit, you will take forever to do it.

    Set the time limit and finish the task by then. There can be a million things you can do to improve it, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

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    6. Be Okay With Mistakes

    Part of the reason why a perfectionist obsesses over their work is because they want it to be mistake-free. However, trying to achieve 100% perfection is highly ineffective. If we’re busy perfecting this thing, we can’t get to other important things.

    Realize that making mistakes is a trade off we have to embrace. The more we open ourselves to making mistakes, the faster we can get down to learning from them, and the quicker we can grow.

    7. Realize Concerns Usually Amount to Nothing

    It’s good to plan and prepare, but there comes a time when we should let things roll and deal with problems as they crop up. Being overly preemptive makes us live in an imaginary future versus in the present.

    This doesn’t mean you don’t care. What it means that most of the things that do crop up can always be controlled on the spot, without worrying about them beforehand.

    8. Take Breaks

    If your productivity is waning, take a break. Resting and coming back to the same thing later on gives you a renewed perspective and fresh focus.

    The Bottom Line

    Perfectionism doesn’t have to be the enemy. If you’re a perfectionist, you can use it to help you be better at what you love to do. However, there’s a time and a place for it, and it’s important to learn strategies to start overcoming perfectionism when it becomes an obsession.

    Instead of doing work perfectly, do your best and move on. This will help you go farther, faster.

    More on Being Your Best

    Featured photo credit: Elsa T. via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    More by this author

    Celestine Chua

    Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

    11 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Results on Your Goals How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity 42 Practical Ways to Start Working on Self-Improvement 5 Reasons Why Being a Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

    17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd
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    If you are like most people, you probably have big goals and dreams that you would like to succeed in — you want to be the top in your career, live a healthy lifestyle, or flourish in your relationships.

    Everyone dreams of a positive future, but most people don’t realize the secret to a truly successful life:

    You determine your future in the way you spend your everyday moments. If you want to be a successful person, you must consistently develop good daily habits. As Aristotle pointed out:

    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.

    Building positive daily habits is a huge challenge, but can you imagine the amazing things you could accomplish with just a little commitment and determination?

    Creating lasting, healthy habits is the real key difference between people who are successful in life and those who are unsuccessful.

    You might be wondering which specific habits make the biggest difference. Not to worry, I’ve compiled a comparison list to help you get a jump start on a successful future.

    1. Successful people embrace change. Unsuccessful people fear change.

    Change is a constant for all of humanity, and it is important that you develop a positive relationship with it.

    When unexpected or unwelcome changes arise, ask yourself how you can embrace it instead of running away. A few practical ways to reverse a change-fearing mindset include:

    • Take a moment to recognize and address any fears associated with the upcoming change.
    • Communicate with a person you trust about your negative feelings toward change.
    • Practice positive thinking, which you can read about in the next section.

    2. Successful people exude joy. Unsuccessful people think, say and do negative things.

    A joyful, positive disposition can seem like a distant reality in today’s cynical world, but it may be easier to achieve than you think. All you have to do is notice the good things around you and practice being thankful.

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    Mindfulness and gratitude are not just buzz words – choosing a positive attitude can honestly change your life. Many studies have found that thankfulness leads to greater happiness. Furthermore, research indicates that gratitude may even have a lasting positive impact on the brain and overall mental health.[1]

    3. Successful people forgive others. Unsuccessful people hold grudges.

    As a human being, you have likely been offended or hurt by others plenty of times. Don’t give in to the temptation to hold a grudge. Let it go.

    Note that forgiving someone does not equate to giving up your boundaries (which are very important) or even admitting that the offending party is right. You should choose to let go for your own peace of mind.

    4. Successful people track progress. Unsuccessful people just criticize.

    Some kinds of criticism, such as constructive criticism, are good for personal and professional development. The kind of criticism I’m talking about is the pessimistic, nagging, unhelpful variety. This is the kind of criticism in play when you are unfairly harsh to yourself or others.

    Toss unfounded criticisms aside and consider tracking your “wins” or your progresses, no matter how small. Take mental notes or keep a progress journal.

    If you have a solid sense of what you have achieved, you will be less tempted to be hard on yourself.

    5. Successful people share information, data and ideas. Unsuccessful people hoard.

    If you have useful information or generate brilliant ideas on the regular, your first instinct may be to keep it all to yourself for personal gain and solo recognition.

    Instead of hoarding bright ideas, share them with your team. Your talents will be on display for the team, and the team will be able to support you and make your ideas a reality.

    6. Successful people are humble. Unsuccessful people talk more than they listen.

    Humility is key. The ability to listen to other people, really listen and understand, is essential to success in both work and relationships — and to listen you have to be humble.

    Everyone has experienced the frustration of being in a one-sided conversation. When someone approaches you with a question or concern, put your own world aside for just a moment and give them the kindness of your full attention.

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    7. Successful people take risks. Unsuccessful people take the easy way out.

    The next time your heart is racing and you want to walk away, consider embracing the risk. You never know what might happen if you take a chance.

    Embracing risks looks like accepting the speaking engagement even though it seems a little scary. Success takes the courageous route, not the easy route.

    8. Successful people learn, improve and read every day. Unsuccessful people stop learning.

    Instead of binge-watching a show tonight, save an hour before bed to read a book and expand your mind.

    Unsuccessful people are afraid to be flexible – they don’t challenge themselves to learn new things. Avoid this pitfall by exposing yourself to new thoughts and ideas every day.

    9. Successful people handle problems well. Unsuccessful people act before they think.

    The next time you run into a problem or even an emergency, try to work through your initial panic reaction with a few deep breaths.

    Instead of acting rashly, think through your next actions as quickly but as logically as you can.

    Learning to handle problems thoughtfully is an absolutely essential tool in the successful person’s toolbox (that’s you!).

    10. Successful people accept responsibility for their failures. Unsuccessful people blame others.

    Along with a previous tip about humility, this is one of the hardest things you’ll ever learn to do – but also the most rewarding. When you’ve failed, you must fight the urge to pass the blame. Successful people are able to fail honestly and gracefully.

    And, hey, don’t feel bad about failing. Some of the most successful people in the world have failed too many times to count. It’s all a part of the process.

    You can check out this article for more tips on how to fail well:

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    How Failure Helps You To Succeed and Grow

    11. Successful people work with passion and commitment. Unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement.

    A short and sweet lesson for you:

    You should never expect to achieve the things you want without working hard.

    Follow your passion and stay committed to pursuing it. Work hard and stick to your habits every day. You’ll earn your reward.

    12. Successful people spend time with the right people. Unsuccessful people think they already know it all.

    A lot of people miss out on useful relationships and information sharing because they think they can do it all alone.

    Spend time with people who inspire you, spur you to be a better person, and remind you that you can’t go it alone.

    13. Successful people make to-do lists and maintain proper life balance. Unsuccessful people waste their time.

    Ah, time management. Unsuccessful people never master the art of organization and planning.

    Here are a few tips for you when it comes to time management:

    • Make to-do lists. Seriously, this will help you. Make time to do it every morning, evening, or whenever you are able.
    • Keep track of your time. Are you happy with the way you are currently balancing things? What changes can you make?
    • Keep a calendar full of your long-term goals (see next tip).

    14. Successful people write down goals and think long term about their burning desires. Unsuccessful people get distracted every day.

    Why is it so important to keep a long-term goal calendar? Here’s the deal:

    The things you are passionate about today need a backbone.

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    Give your passionate ideas sustainability by writing down goals and staying on task instead of succumbing to distraction.

    15. Successful people compliment others. Unsuccessful people try to bring others down to their level.

    There is no greater confidence than saying “no” to sudden jealous or envious feelings and choosing to sincerely admire someone’s talents instead.

    Unsuccessful people live in a world driven by competition, but successful people know that building people up is far more rewarding than bringing them down.

    16. Successful people want others to succeed. Unsuccessful people secretly hope they fail.

    In the same vein as the point above, this tip is all about good intentions.

    Care for the people around you. Encourage them toward their successes. Hoping that others fail will not help you at all.

    17. Successful people know their purpose and mission. Unsuccessful people don’t know what they want to be.

    The last thing that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is one of the most important:

    Keep your mission in mind.

    Don’t be swayed to and fro by passing emotions and events. Know who you are and pursue your dreams wholeheartedly.

    Final thoughts

    Above all, stay confident. Truly believe that you can be and are successful. Strive to prove it in your day-to-day habits and activities!

    What are you waiting for? Choose one of the habits above and get started today.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Berkeley University of California: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain

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