Development Impostor Syndrome Leadership Perfectionism Potential Wellness

From Perfectionism to Productivity: 11 Strategies for Achieving Success and Balance

Kellie’s Perfectionism Story

Kellie was a high-achiever and had always been a self-described perfectionist. She was a top performer at her job and took pride in the quality of her work. However, over time, her perfectionism had started to take a toll. She spent long hours at the office, constantly reworking projects and second-guessing herself. She was afraid to delegate tasks to her team because she didn’t trust anyone else to do the work to her standards.

As a result, Kellie was constantly exhausted and stressed out. She struggled to balance her work and personal life, and often found herself working late into the night or on weekends. She became irritable and short-tempered with her coworkers, and her relationships with them suffered as a result. Kellie’s team struggled with a lack of meaningful work. They kept themselves busy, but it was obvious to them that Kellie was keeping the important and high value tasks to herself. They often worried that they weren’t trusted, or that they were underperforming.

What is perfectionism, and what impact does it have?

Perfectionism is the belief that everything you do must be flawless, and that anything less than perfection is unacceptable. It can lead to the setting of unrealistic goals and standards, and a tendency to be overly critical of oneself and others.

Perfectionism can have a number of negative impacts, both on mental and physical health, as well as on relationships and overall well-being. Some of the negative effects of perfectionism include:

  • Increased stress and anxiety: Perfectionism can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety, as you may feel pressure to constantly meet your own high standards. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a fear of failure.
  • Procrastination: Perfectionists may struggle with procrastination, as they may be afraid to start a task until they feel completely prepared or may be paralysed by the fear of making a mistake.
  • Burnout: The constant pressure to be perfect can be exhausting and can lead to burnout.
  • Difficulty with relationships: Perfectionism can lead to unrealistic expectations of oneself and others, and can cause conflicts in relationships.
  • Physical health problems: The stress and anxiety associated with perfectionism can also lead to physical health problems, such as headaches, stomach issues, and difficulty sleeping.

Overall, perfectionism can have a negative impact on a person’s well-being and can stop them from achieving their goals. It is important to recognise the negative effects of perfectionism and work towards overcoming it, to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

How can you overcome perfectionism?

Perfectionism can be a difficult trait to overcome, as it often stems from a desire to do things well and be successful, and a lot of people want that. Perfectionists often don’t realise the impact it is having on themselves and others, until they get to the point where something must give. If you struggle with perfectionism, here are some strategies to help you overcome it:

1. Recognise the difference between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism: It’s important to understand that striving for excellence and setting high standards for yourself can be healthy, but when it starts to negatively impact your well-being, it becomes unhealthy.

2. Set realistic goals: It’s important to have high standards for yourself, but setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and disappointment. Try to be realistic about what you can accomplish and give yourself permission to make mistakes.

3. Focus on progress, not perfection: Instead of focusing on the end goal of being perfect, focus on the progress that you’re making towards your goals. Celebrate small successes along the way and remind yourself that progress is more important than perfection.

4. Reframe your thoughts: Perfectionists often have negative self-talk, such as “I should be better at this” or “I’m not good enough”. Reframing your thoughts to a more positive and realistic perspective, such as “I am doing my best” or “I am learning and improving” can help you to be more compassionate towards yourself and reduce the pressure to be perfect.

5. Practice self-compassion: Instead of beating yourself up for not being perfect, try to be kind and understanding towards yourself. Recognise that everyone makes mistakes and that it’s okay to be imperfect.

6. Prioritise self-care: Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally is crucial to overcoming perfectionism. Make sure to make time for activities that you enjoy and that help you relax, such as exercise, reading, or spending time with friends and family.

7. Take breaks: It’s important to take breaks and give yourself time to relax and recharge. Perfectionism can be draining, and taking breaks can help you refocus and come back to your work with renewed energy. Disconnect fully, don’t check emails while you are away from the office!

8. Learn to let go of things that are out of your control: Perfectionists often have a hard time accepting things that they can’t change. Learning to let go of things that are out of your control can help reduce stress and anxiety.

9. Seek feedback: Getting feedback from others can help you see your work from a different perspective and identify areas for improvement. Remember to listen to the feedback and not take it personally.

10. Challenge your beliefs: Perfectionists often have underlying beliefs that drive their behaviour, such as “If I am not perfect, I am a failure” or “I need to be perfect to be loved”. Challenge these beliefs by questioning their validity and exploring alternative perspectives.

11. Seek support: Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you, rather than those who are critical. It can also be helpful to talk to a therapist or coach who can help you work through your perfectionism and develop strategies to overcome it.

So, what happened to Kellie?

Kellie’s manager noticed that she seemed to be struggling and offered to help. They agreed to engage a coach to help Kellie with practical strategies and tools, and to provide a safe sounding board.

In the first session, Kellie identified that she would benefit from setting more realistic goals for herself and delegating tasks to her team more frequently. She was hesitant at first, but she eventually decided to try it out. To her surprise, the quality of her work didn’t suffer when she delegated tasks and set more realistic goals for herself. In fact, she was able to complete projects more efficiently and with less stress. She also found that her relationships with her coworkers and team improved, as she was no longer micromanaging their work.

Kellie realised that her perfectionism had been holding her back and that it was okay to make mistakes. Over time she learned to be more self-compassionate and to focus on the progress she was making rather than the pursuit of perfection. She was able to find a better balance in her work and personal life and was ultimately more successful as a result.

In summary

Overall, overcoming perfectionism requires patience and self-compassion. It’s important to recognise that it’s okay to make mistakes and that perfection is unattainable.

By setting realistic goals, practicing self-compassion, taking breaks, seeking feedback, and seeking support, you can begin to overcome your perfectionism and lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

Read next

Perfectionists often struggle with Impostor Syndrome. Take the quiz and find out your Impostor Type.

Sharing is caring!