Professional Feature: Perfectionism


About The Professional Feature 'Perfectionism'

Perfectionism means that you do your best to do something as accurately and as well as possible. A certain degree of perfectionism is certainly not wrong. It helps you to get the best out of yourself. It only becomes a problem if you continuously strive for the highest attainable in everything you do, in your eyes failure is an absolute mortal sin and you are therefore never satisfied with yourself. This costs a lot of energy and can ultimately lead to overs-train and burnout.

Healthy and unhealthy perfectionism

- So basically, perfectionism is a good quality. The only question is: how do you set goals and how do you handle those goals? This makes the difference between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism.
- Healthy perfectionism. You demand a lot from yourself and you strive for quality, but you know when you can be satisfied with the result. If something goes wrong, you are not completely taken aback, but you quickly start to do something about it. You are not overly concerned, you are not afraid of making mistakes and you respond positively when people give constructive criticism. You see errors and feedback as opportunities for growth and learning. You are absorbed in your work in a pleasant way and people will label you as inspired. Perfectionism at this level is therefore not harmful.
- Unhealthy perfectionism. You always strive for total perfection. Only the very best result is good enough and if you don't make it, you blame yourself for not having done your best. Even though this is not justified. Because it's impossible to achieve the very best result, always and everywhere, you constantly disappoint yourself. You doubt yourself, you are extremely self-critical and you let your self-esteem depend on your performance. If people give you constructive criticism, you are defensive.
- People with an unhealthy form of perfectionism are often workaholics; they can fix something that is not broken and redo entire projects because they have discovered small errors. The pleasure in the work is overshadowed by doubts about one's own performance and concern about the judgment of others.

Causes of perfectionism

Perfectionism is caused by fear. Fear of failure, fear of losing control or fear of not getting the appreciation you want. Or in other words: you use perfectionism to gain success, appreciation or love. Perfectionists often know that they set too high demands on themselves, but there is an annoying little voice in their head that constantly whispers to them that they are no good if they perform less than perfect. This is a belief that once - often in youth - has settled into the brain and nourishes thoughts and behaviors.

Consequences of perfectionism

Because perfectionists are primarily focused on delivering flawless performance, they are often less productive and effective. They show procrastination or they can completely lose themselves in details, which means that they spend much longer on something than necessary. In addition, there is little room left for fun, growth and creativity. Because of their fear of criticism and negative feedback, they often dare not share their work with others and prevent themselves from learning from tips and areas for improvement from colleagues. They prefer to stay in their comfort zone and tackle tasks that they know and are sure that success is guaranteed.

But - how ironic - often their perfectionism is the cause of mistakes. Because of their fear of not wanting to make mistakes, they set the bar so unattainably high that mistakes are made. And what do you do as that hard perfectionist ? Right. Then you raise the bar a little higher, because: "If I try harder this time, I'll make it. " So perfectionism is actually a vicious circle and the consequence of this is that perfectionists often have low self-esteem. Their self-esteem is based on the approval of others, so on external factors. That makes perfectionists vulnerable.

How do you approach perfectionism?

Nobody likes to make mistakes, almost everyone needs a certain level of control and it's very human to want appreciation. Completely ignoring these fears is therefore not realistic. The trick is to make sure you know when you can be satisfied and your work is good enough. If you are able to do this, you will deal with perfectionism in a healthy way.

Acknowledge showing your perfectionist behavior is the first step to a perfectionism-free life. This requires courage, because as a perfectionist pur sang you will have to accept your shortcomings. It is important that you realize that your perfectionist behavior is undesirable and that perfection is an illusion. The moment you realize this, you've already taken the first step. The next step is to compete with the thoughts and behaviors that fuel your perfectionism. Ask yourself the question: "What exactly am I afraid of? What is the worst that can happen?" If you replace perfectionist habits with healthier and more realistic habits, you will see that it gives you more satisfaction.


- Make an inventory of the pros and cons: Make a list of the pros and cons of the pursuit of perfection. Write down everything that comes to mind and be honest.
- Stop thinking all-or-nothing: Become aware of your self-critical and all-or-nothing attitude. Replace your critical thoughts with more realistic and reasonable thoughts. Force yourself to see and recognize the good parts of a performance.
- Set realistic and achievable goals: Base this on your needs and what you've achieved in the past. When you reach a goal, set your next goal one step higher than the previous one. Let your sense of satisfaction not only depend on the result, but also on your dedication, the pleasure you've had and how much you've learned. There is also value in the process that you go through to reach a goal.
- Make a schedule: By making a schedule you force yourself to set priorities. Connect a time limit to the activities that you must do. In this way you reduce procrastination and you avoid having to spend too long on a task
- Learn from mistakes and criticism: The greatest horror of perfectionists: making mistakes and receiving criticism. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Making a mistake is something human, everyone makes mistakes. Try to look more objectively at the criticism, but also at yourself. You can learn from criticism and mistakes. Give it a positive meaning: a mistake is a chance to grow.
- Stop comparing yourself with others: Another has a different history, different talents, different circumstances. The only fair comparison is the comparison with yourself. What development have you gone through?

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