Career Development

12 Tips To Overcome Being a Perfectionist

March 15, 2021

People often consider being a perfectionist in the workplace a good thing. A perfectionist can be detail-oriented, constantly turn in excellent work and always be ready to embrace the challenge of new tasks. However, perfectionism may ultimately hinder the work performance of an employee. In this article, we discuss how perfectionism can limit you and tips for how to stop being a perfectionist.

Why perfectionism can limit your potential

Perfectionism can manifest itself as a strong work ethic and the desire to do well. However, this can cause you to overwork and overextend yourself. Working too hard and doing more than your job requires can lead to burnout.

Burnout is often a symptom of perfectionism and overachievement. It can lead to too much stress in your life and affect your ability to do your job effectively. It's important to do your job well without overachieving to avoid exhaustion.

Read more: 9 Ways To Avoid Burnout

How to stop being a perfectionist

If perfectionism is a habit of yours, it may take some time to overcome. However, here are some steps you can use to get started:

1. Acknowledge perfectionism

Acknowledge your perfectionist tendencies to yourself or others, but try to avoid giving yourself the title of "perfectionist." Viewing perfectionism as a behavior rather than part of your identity transforms it into something you can more easily change.

2. Evaluate and understand your habits and feelings

Once you recognize your perfectionist tendencies, try to understand them better. While creating excellent work is part of striving for perfection, there may be another motive behind your desire to achieve perfection. For example, some people try to be perfectionists because they enjoy the sense of control, but others may try because they enjoy the praise they receive for a job well done.

3. Take action to stop perfectionism

Create a plan to change your behaviors and mindset to help you avoid perfectionism. Challenge yourself to develop new habits that still help you achieve success in daily life without obsessing over perfection. Your skills and abilities make you excellent in your field, not your desire to be perfect at all times.

Tips for getting over perfectionism

Here are some tips to try if you want to stop being a perfectionist:

Create new, more realistic goals for yourself

Setting goals is an excellent method to motivate yourself and help you focus on what matters most with your work. However, you need to set realistic goals that you can reasonably achieve. Use the SMART goals method to help you do this. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

Read more: 20 Goals To Set For Yourself to Further Your Personal Development

Adjust your expectations and standards

One way to stop being a perfectionist at work is to see how your peers perform at work. If your peers seem less concerned with perfectionism and work fewer hours than you do, but they still turn in good work, adjust your expectations and standards to match their work ethic. If they are successful in their career without pressuring themselves to be perfect, you can be, too.

Lower the stakes

Maintain a realistic understanding of the consequences of your actions. Lower the stakes of your tasks and responsibilities to better reflect reality. For example, if you are a graphic designer working on a new email campaign, perfectionism may lead you to approach every email as a high-stakes scenario where your client expects everything to be perfect on the first draft. However, in reality, your first draft is the starting point for you to collaborate with the client to create the exact email they want.

Practice saying "no" more

Many perfectionists are ambitious and embrace every opportunity they can. However, agreeing to every opportunity can overwhelm you with too much work. Turn down extra tasks that differ from your passions. Saying "no" allows you to better control your workload and invest in yourself and your skills.

Read more: How To Nicely Say 'No' (With 50 Examples)

Delegate your work

Wanting to maintain control over a situation can lead to perfectionism. Delegating your work is an effective way to help you determine how to get over perfectionism. Trust your peers and their abilities to deliver excellent work. Share responsibilities with them so you can better focus on the work you care the most about.

Read more: Your Guide To Successful Delegation and Team Management

Ask others what they think

Talk to trusted coworkers or supervisors about your work performance. Ask them for friendly advice about your approach to work and how you use their time, then ask them about their approach and time management. Actively listen to their responses, process them and adjust your daily work habits to better align with their approach.

Read more: How To Ask for Feedback

Challenge your thought process

Challenge your natural thought process that makes you focus on perfectionism. Consider the cause of these thoughts and the impact they could have on your ability to do your job effectively. Negative thoughts may cause you to doubt your abilities and lead to your need to strive for perfection. However, try to counter these negative thoughts with positive self-talk and affirmations to achieve a realistic mindset and remind yourself of your own talents.

Make small changes

Start your journey on how to stop being a perfectionist with small changes that challenge your mindset. Ease yourself into new habits. Approach these changes as small experiments, and evaluate the results of each thing you try.

For example, your desire for perfection causes you to arrive at every meeting 10 minutes early. Try to arrive only five minutes early or even arrive right before the meeting starts. Ask yourself if your arrival time actually affected the meeting or your day as a whole.

Recognize the value of time off

Perfectionism may lead you to work beyond 40 hours every week and prioritizing your work life over your personal life. Make time for yourself by taking advantage of vacation time or paid time off. Separate yourself from the office for a day or two to focus on your own passions. When you return to work, evaluate how the company could continue to operate well even when you focus on your personal well-being.

Read more: How To Ask for a Day Off: Tips, Template and Example

Practice self-care

Instead of striving for perfectionism, strive for a good work-life balance. Self-care is a critical aspect of developing a healthy work-life balance. While self-care looks different for everyone, it can include:

  • Setting boundaries
  • Establishing a work routine
  • Eating foods you enjoy
  • Making time for your hobbies
  • Sleeping enough every night

Related: How To Make Time for Self-Care While Working From Home

Accept yourself

Some people suggest that perfectionism is a defense mechanism brought on by what perfectionists perceive as shortcomings in others that they cannot accept in themselves. However, the best way to accept yourself and help stop perfectionism is to be kind to yourself. Remind yourself of your skills and abilities, and talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend. Challenge yourself to compliment yourself on something new every day.


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