In my coaching, I’ve discovered that many of my clients suffer from a perfectionist streak. (Not surprisingly, I’m a perfectionist too!) If you, dear reader, are one yourself, you might think that’s a very strange sentence, as you no doubt consider perfectionism to be an advantage. And maybe at first glance, it does appear to be positive. But for whom, may I ask? For your clients? Maybe and then again maybe not. OK, so perhaps they do get a very high standard of work from you which is admirable but is perfectionism really necessary? And what are the downsides for the client? Perhaps you take longer to do the job than is necessary and time, for them, is of the essence. Or perhaps the stress, strain or irritation you are feeling is transmitted subconsciously to your clients, which is never a good thing.
When it comes to you the perfectionist, how does this serve you? What are the disadvantages of you always expecting yourself to be perfect? Do you spend additional time doing a job which you then can’t charge for, just to satisfy the internal critic? Or, because you don’t want to let the client down and the work is urgent, do you work late into the night or the early hours of the morning until you are satisfied, but exhausted and possibly feeling resentful; that is if you can ever be totally satisfied!
One of my clients, a creative designer, also has a perfectionist streak. He always made the excuse that, because his designs would be seen not only by his clients but also by others, they had to be perfect. So he would regularly work extra unpaid hours, doing unnecessary work, dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s. We found a way around that.
In recent times, what I’ve come to understand is that perfectionism, like most of our actions, is in fact learned behaviour. So the chances are your parents and possibly your teachers taught you that you have to be perfect. When I consider the many rules and regulations which my parents taught me as a child – you can’t do this and you must do that, the high standards they set, not to mention frequent criticism, it’s not surprising that I picked up the gauntlet and became my own worst critic! Of course, I’m not criticising them – they were doing what they thought was best for me to get on in the world.
And I notice as I write this article that my perfectionism is in play – changing this word or that, reading and re-reading it to make sure that it is perfect! In actual fact, there’s no such thing as perfection, so you might just as well give it up right now. I can guarantee there are more drawbacks to perfectionism than there are advantages. One of those is that it can lead to procrastination or even pointlessness. Why? Because the fear is that you can’t do it perfectly, so why bother to do it at all? In fact, perfectionism is really a by-product of not feeling good enough and low self-worth. The perfectionist is striving to feel good about him or herself inside by doing things perfectly; however, this will never work and is not the way to go.
In business, it causes many problems, not the least of which is undercharging, discounting or over delivering. This then leads to a greater sense of not being good enough and so becomes a vicious cycle.
However, I’m delighted to report that there is another way. A wise person recently told me that instead of perfectionism, why don’t we strive for excellence. Excellence is not only possible it’s also very probable, if we apply ourselves.
So I’d like to invite you, nay urge you, to join me and give up perfectionism in place of excellence.
If you have any questions in relation to this article, please contact me on 01202 743961 or 07957 672335 or visit my Contact Vanessa Page to book your complimentary True Worth Strategy Session.