Perfectionism – How It Distorts and Poisons

penguins perfectionism
Perfectionism means you often suffer by comparison…

I recently heard a story that shines a light on the cost of perfectionism in a new way. It opened my eyes to an effect of this time thief that had not occurred to me before.

A friend and colleague told me about a situation years ago when she was doing an annual review with an employee. We’ll call her Susan.

Susan was an excellent staff member who was actually in line for a bonus. My friend was looking forward to sharing the good news and discussing goals for the coming year.

The Cost of Perfectionistic Tendencies

To her surprise, Susan arrived looking nervous and carrying a thick file folder.

Then Susan began spreading out a large collection of thank-you’s, validations, and other ‘proofs’ of the high quality of her work. She seemed more defensive than proud of what she was sharing, so my friend asked, “Susan, I appreciate seeing all this, and I know, first-hand, about the quality of your work.  So I’m curious — why did you think you needed to show it to me?”

Perfectionism Distorts

Susan’s response was very informative. She talked about how she saw my friend and how she constantly compared herself to her. “You’re so perfect and I’m not. I can’t possibly measure up to your standards.”

That exchange led to a lot of reflection on my friend’s part. As a manager and leader, she was concerned about how she was being viewed by her staff and about the impact it had. When you hold high expectations for yourself, as she does, it’s easy for people to automatically extrapolate and assume that you will hold the same expectations for them.

Perfectionism Creates Distance

Recently, my friend told me that this experience had opened her eyes to how distancing and unhelpful it is when someone sees you as ‘perfect.’

You’re immediately thrust into the role of ‘Critic’ whether that’s your style or not. This puts a damper on creativity and productivity and, at worst, creates an atmosphere of defensiveness and reactivity.

Countering Perfectionism

So how can you counter this in your relationships? Here are 3 tips. I hope you’ll find them helpful whether you’re dealing with this in a work environment or in your personal life.

  • Be human: Accept your humanity and allow it to be visible, from a place of compassion, balance and groundedness. How might this look? Be aware of your motivation, communicate with openness, and be willing to share your challenges.
  • Delegate: Delegation is a powerful skill, both for lightening your load and empowering others to develop new competencies. So, when you delegate be clear about your expectations. For example, are you going to check the final product or is the other person totally responsible for it?
  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Excellence continues to be your overarching goal, but as you delegate, things may not always be done quite your way. Think about what you’re willing to let go of. For example, in a piece of marketing copy you delegated to an employee, you notice that a comma could be replaced with a semi-colon. You’re at a decision point. Do you say something or let this go?

The bottom line is that when you’re a leader it’s often the case that people will ascribe standards, judgments and powers to you which you may or may not actually possess. As you learn to directly and successfully address these situations, you’ll find that your relationships — both at work and at home — evolve in positive ways.

So, here’s to making time choices that free up energy and creativity, and becoming your own time expert, starting today.

And for more help…

Perfectionism eats up the energy and undermines the confidence of countless bright, energetic, and talented people. Are you one of them?

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With this E-Guide Book you engage in a process of learning that is deepening and doable and definitely within your reach. The thought-provoking strategies, tips and exercises help you discover how to:

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This is an E-Guide Book to be worked with. And it comes with two powerful bonuses:

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So, are you tired of feeling like your own worst enemy? And are you ready to step away from perfectionism and free up the time and energy it’s been devouring? Then click the link below to learn more about this transformative time tool and the bonuses that come with it.

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