When Perfectionism is Good for You

Jul 28, 2019

If you’re used to thinking about perfectionism as a weakness, you may be surprised to know that there’s an upside to having high standards.

The reason?  Just as there’s more than one brand of toothpaste, there’s more than one kind of perfectionist.

The bad versus the good

We’ve all heard the warnings that come with describing yourself as someone who has to get absolutely everything right.

In these cases, perfectionism can be a genuine burden; an emotionally aggressive trait that can bring on stress, and even burnout, from the constant pressure of trying to meet those impossible expectations you’ve placed on yourself.

There’s probably no need to add that if you’re unlucky enough to work alongside someone who displays those inflexible Type-A tendencies, you could also suffer from the anxiety and exhaustion that come from attempting to live up to their impossible standards.

But what if those standards and expectations aren’t impossible, merely high?

A recent in-depth study of perfectionism, carried out by professors at the University of Bath, and York St. John University, concluded that setting high standards, and pro-actively working towards set goals “may help maintain a sense of accomplishment and delay the debilitating effects of burnout”.

In short, being a ‘good’ perfectionist could actually help you achieve success.

It’s all about balance

As we’ve seen, there’s nothing wrong with working hard, and striving towards a goal.  But if you’re worried about setting the bar too high without realising, it could be a good idea to take some time out and reflect.

For example, are you working to your own standards, or do you feel pressure to be “the best” from someone else, such as a family member or a work colleague?  Do you leave work every day silently begging for more rest, as you fret about all those tasks that you couldn’t find enough time to finish?  Do you constantly push others to achieve unrealistic results?

Perfect perfectionism

The holy grail of perfectionism is to remain self-aware, and exercise a non-judgemental approach – towards yourself as well as others.

So as you work towards that brand-new goal, set yourself and others realistic, achievable standards (they can still be high if you want them to be!)

Recognise that there may come a time when you’ll have to delegate, ask for help, deal with negative feedback, or adjust your plans to take account of unexpected changes or mistakes.  That isn’t failure, it’s flexible preparation.

Instead of adopting a harsh “all or nothing” mentality, give yourself permission to enjoy the feeling of growth, and of learning something new, rather than always focusing on the end result.

(Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate your successes when they come!)

If you’re worried about the effects of perfectionism on your life, or are concerned about a loved one, All About People are here to help and support you.

Our friendly team offer a confidential, qualified, and non-judgemental counselling service that focuses completely on you.  To find out more, or to arrange a session, please get in contact.

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