How to Tell if You’re a Perfectionist and Overcome it

There is a big difference between excellence and perfectionism

How to Tell if You're a PerfectionistThe dictionary defines a perfectionist as ‘a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection’, are you a perfectionist? Many people think that perfectionism is a good thing and whilst being a perfectionist can have a few perks, (many people admire perfectionists). There are also a lot of disadvantages associated with it.

It’s a common thought process that perfectionists are always striving to come up with the perfect scenario and that is rightly considered to be a positive thing. However, there is a big difference between excellence and perfectionism.

The reality is that perfectionism is about avoiding feelings of shame and inadequacy. By being perfect, you have permission to not feel bad about yourself. However, you never quite feel good about yourself either. Perfectionists aren’t trying to achieve something great. They’re trying to avoid something negative.

Being a perfectionist has several disadvantages:

  1. You waste a lot of time. Some things don’t require a high level of attention. To spend more time than necessary is a waste of an important resource: your time. If success is important to you, allocating your time wisely is an important consideration.
  2. It creates a lot of stress. When there’s only one way to be successful at something, there’s no room for error. Perfectionists aren’t happy people. There’s a constant anxiety that can can’t be completely satisfied.
  3. You lose sight of the big picture. Bogging yourself down with trivial details can limit your awareness of the bigger objective.
  4. You’re never happy with your results. You might be satisfied, but you’re never happy.

Being a perfectionist limits your efficiency and effectiveness. There are signs that many perfectionists share.

Signs to Be Aware Of

Decide if you’re trying to be too perfect:

  1. You take things too far. No matter what you do, you take it to the limit. Everything has to be done as well as possible, whether it’s folding the laundry, parking the car, or doing something more meaningful.
  2. You long for your school days. School is perfect for perfectionists. The competition isn’t too great on the average, and your achievements are witnessed by all. Your work is also judged quantitatively. You know exactly where you stand.
  3. You’re judgmental of others. Your standards of acceptability are so high that no one can consistently achieve them. If you find yourself with less friends than you’d like, your commitment to be perfect might be the primary cause.
  4. You’re too hard on yourself. By the same token, you can’t live up to your own expectations either. This leads to feelings of disappointment and shame. Are you more successful than most of the people you know, but less pleased with yourself than they are with themselves? Do you find it hard to be proud of yourself? Do you feel happy and proud when you’re successful, or do you merely feel a sense of relief?
  5. You procrastinate excessively. The need to be perfect creates anxiety and makes it hard to get started. You know you’re in for a lot of work and self-induced drama. Under those circumstances, anyone would be hesitant to get started!

What Can You Do if You’re a Perfectionist?

Try these techniques:

  1. Determine how much time is reasonable for completing the task. Ask a successful friend how long she would spend, and limit yourself to that amount of time. You’ll soon learn what’s reasonable.
  2. Stay focused on the most important activities. Perfectionists spend too much time on minor details. Ask yourself which activities will yield the most results for the time spent.
  3. Learn to accept being less than perfect. Notice that no one else cares if something is less than perfect. You don’t need to beat everyone. Strive to attain a high level of quality with a reasonable amount of effort and time.

Perfectionists believe they’re committed to excellence, but they’re actually avoiding feelings of inadequacy. If you’re a perfectionist, ask yourself why. What do you gain? What does it cost you? Do you take pleasure from being perfect? How do you feel when you’re less than perfect?

If you discover that you’re a perfectionist, each day practice doing something well, but not perfect. It may take a while, but soon enough, you’ll be enjoying the benefits of excellence rather than the disadvantages of perfectionism.

Till Next Time

Mike Gardner is The Time Doctor

Mike Gardner aka ‘The Time Doctor’ and is highly regarded as one of the UK’s leading Time Management and productivity specialists. As well as being regularly featured in both online and off-line media outlets around the world, he is the author of the best selling time management book, Business Owners: Your Family Misses You. He regularly speaks on topics that are congruent with his mission of helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be incredibly productive, whilst still balancing their business and family commitments in a way that enables them to feel fulfilled and guilt-free. He is an avid Aston Villa fan, a Dad to Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role as an Officer with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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14 thoughts on “How to Tell if You’re a Perfectionist and Overcome it

  1. There are some important tips and lessons in here, Mike. Thanks for sharing your ideas. Number 4 in both the first 2 lists is spot-on for me, but I’m getting better at it. Mainly from reading posts like this and learning from others.

  2. Hi Mike great post here! I am one of those Perfectionist got to get stuff done right the first time. I blame OCD for that nonesense. Though I am working on fixing that and just getting stuff done.

    All The Best
    Edward Haberthur

  3. I’m not a perfectionist or even a recovering one. It was instilled into me from a very young age that done is better than perfect and what you may think is perfect, someone else may not. Throw in the fact that trying to please everyone is the recipe for disaster… and you’ll see why I’m not a perfectionist. I will admit to being a polisher… I often go back and polish things up 🙂
    Sarah Arrow recently posted…Want More Website Credibility and Better Conversions? Try This!My Profile

  4. You wrote this for me. I waste a lot of time trying to get a design perfect so end up with 10-30 in each series. This gives me loads of choice but a prime opportunity for procrastination and, of course, the feeling of “I’ll do a few more of these cos this one’s not quite right.”

    Perfectionism is a bind.

    I’ll make a note of your “How not to….” list and start practising.