Thinking Like An Athlete

In sports, the drive for perfectionism is a positive force and turn setbacks into opportunities to reflect, learn, and adjust your approach. But regular perfectionists keep revisiting past failures as a form of self-condemnation.

All this does is cause them to raise the bar even higher, increasing the likelihood of failure. Try to see failure as simply a launching place for success, so you can break away from perfectionism.

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Problem Solving

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Run a small experiment where you either purposefully stop early or give yourself hard limits on your work. So you have an opportunity to disprove your perfectionistic beliefs.

Not only will this help you get over your own perfectionism, but it can also highlight places where your effort is better spent.

Most perfectionists can’t see their standards are unrealistic and bad for them. To find if you’re a perfectionist, ask yourself if your standards:

  • ... are higher than those of others.
  • ... can be met by you or others.
  • ... help or get in the way of you achieving your goals.
  • ... can be relaxed without affecting much the end result.

If a project is at 90%, you’re asking for line-level feedback like typos, glitches, or silly mistakes. At 30%, the reviewer skips over those things (assuming they’ll be looped in later to help with them) and focuses on the broader strokes: structure, strategy, approach.

Using this technique can help curb the socially-prescribed perfectionism in the workplace. It also makes your managers more aware of the status of your projects, and thus less likely to pile more on you.

The Issue With Perfectionism

The more you chase perfectionism, the more likely you are to procrastinate and then get stressed out when things don’t go exactly how you wanted them to.

Research even indicates that even when perfectionists get higher salaries, they are more unhappy with their work.

To feel comfortable with the uncomfortable:

  • Think what’s the worst-case scenario of a situation that's stressing you out, to see that the consequences aren’t as bad.
  • Have a safety net with plans, friends, and resources to decrease your fear of failure.
  • Reframe the fear of the unknown as excitement.

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Do a weekly review to reflect on your progress

Try to identify things you avoided due to fear of failure and situations where your perfectionism wasn’t worth it or moments where you did well despite being uncertain.

Your objective here is to learn where perfectionism has a positive impact and where it does not.

Being motivated is great. But there’s a big difference between healthy motivation and aiming for perfection. Healthy motivation looks like self-focus, self-compassion, and having a growth mindset, while perfection is more about people-pleasing, fear, and control.

Perfectionism can also be learned by growing up around perfectionist parents. Maybe you used to hear them openly criticize themselves, or second-guess their choices, or blame themselves for your missteps. If so, it’s easy to see how you could pick up those behaviours yourself.

3 types of perfectionism
  • Self-oriented: the irrational desire to be perfect.
  • Socially prescribed: perceiving excessive expectations from others.
  • Other-oriented: placing unrealistic standards on others.

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