Is perfectionism helping or hindering you?

Is perfectionism helping or hindering you?

Often when a new semester or year begins, we vow to leave our bad habits behind and live up to a higher standard we just know we can achieve. Yet these resolutions are notorious for being forgotten mere days or weeks after we’ve pronounced them. Why?

Maybe we haven’t honestly assessed the obstacles that hindered us in the past. Or maybe our exuberance about turning over a new leaf causes us to set unreachable goals.

For some people, failure to reach goals is caused by perfectionism. Either we put off working toward the goal because we’re afraid the outcome won’t be perfect, or we never see projects through to completion because we can always find one more detail to add or change. If this situation sounds familiar, perfectionism may be what’s holding you back. Not sure? Watch the video and visit the Action Step below to find out.

Action Step: take the survey

Clinical psychologist and author Dr. Jeff Szymanski explains the healthy and unhealthy versions of perfectionism:

Perfectionism is healthy when “your focus is on achieving personal standards rather than avoiding mistakes, your strategies are flexible and you show the ability to adapt.” This leads to “feelings of competence, confidence and satisfaction.”

In contrast, “unhealthy perfection is operating when…you are preoccupied with making mistakes, and you are rigid in your approach to problem solving.” You are likely to “experience chronic feelings of anxiety, stress, guilt and doubt. You feel like you are working hard all of the time with outcomes that don’t correspond with your hard work.”

Answer this 6-question survey to find out if you’re a perfectionist and whether your perfectionism is healthy or not.

Strategy: progress not perfection

Certainly we don’t mean to encourage laziness. Don’t let yourself off the hook, set your sights low, or be satisfied with mediocre work. Rather, be honest with yourself about…

  • whether your goals are realistic
  • how your work habits could be more efficient
  • how lofty goals could be broken into easy action steps

Further Reading: more great strategies

Nobody’s perfect, even students at Princeton University. Read the University’s advice to students for“Getting Past Perfectionism.”

Parents Forum

  • A college student realizes that perfectionism is not worth the anxiety it causes.
  • Today’s young people are brought up to think that one small mistake could ruin their lives. The pressure this creates is untenable. This high school English teacher tries to reassure his students that everything will be okay, even if they make mistakes.