Knowing when good enough is good enough

Most people would agree that having high standards at work is generally a good thing.  But what if you can’t help striving for perfection in everything you do? 

There are all sorts of reasons why someone might be a perfectionist. It might be because of low confidence, or a desire to please others, or maybe a fear of failure. When high standards become a constant pressure to be perfect, it can cause great stress and anxiety.

Perfectionists often achieve less than other people as they end up taking far longer to achieve a task or procrastinating because their fear of failure can prevent them from taking risks or trying new things.  A tendency to be very self-critical means that they are constantly reaffirming that they aren’t good enough, which in turn undermines their confidence and self-esteem and so it becomes a vicious circle. Instead of being proud of their achievements – maybe when they’ve progressed, learnt something, or worked really hard at something – they might worry about not having faultless outputs or doing as well as others.

If you recognise yourself in the above description, what can you do to overcome perfectionism?

Think about the costs versus the benefits when you are performing a task – is it better to get it done rather than take ages trying to make it perfect?  Allow yourself to make mistakes, indeed celebrate them as a way to learn and improve.  This goes for criticism, too – learn to accept it and use it to grow in your abilities and confidence.

Try talking to yourself positively. Ban the critical voice in your head.  Ask yourself how much this task really matters and what’s the worse that could happen if it isn’t perfectTell yourself that nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and it doesn’t mean they are a failure, the important thing is to do your best.  Repeat these statement regularly till they become a habit!

Try and see your situation with perspective.  Will it still matter tomorrow, or next week, or next year?

Think about how someone else might see this situation.  Could you look at it a different way?  What would you say to a friend who was behaving as you are? 

Try and practise doing things imperfectly when it doesn’t matter – maybe an email could be unpunctuated, or you could lose your train of thought for a while during a routine meeting.  You want to gradually get used to letting go a little.

Break down a large challenge into smaller tasks, setting yourself achievable goals with time frames.  Try not to get bogged down in detail. Try to focus more on the process of reaching a goal as well as achieving the goal – the process of learning or completing a task to the best of your ability is just as important. 

Knowing when good enough is enough is key in making sure you have a balanced life.