Perfectionism is one of those traits that some people classify as admirable. Those who have it proudly boast about it, while those who don’t commend those who do. However, it can become a double-edged sword when it comes to productivity.
As someone with a devoted work ethic who completes all of their projects and the tasks to the highest standard and always arrives promptly, you’ll be left wondering why your productivity levels aren’t as standing as you suppose they should be.
While having high standards is a respectable quality, perfectionism is a glorified version of procrastination. Nothing delays a project more than the daunting thought of unrealistic expectations. And the crushing fear of failure is hardly a healthy motivator for any successful person. The unsurmountable pressure perfectionists place upon themselves is not only creativity stifling: It’s self-destructive.
Even the founder of Impressionist Art, Claude Monet, was haunted by his perfectionism. He was renowned for frequently destroying his paintings in frustration and was noted for once crying out in despair, “My life has been nothing but a failure.” Yet, in 2004, nearly a hundred years after his death, his “Effects of Sun in the Fog” sold for $20.1 million.
We live in a society where failure is seen as a weakness, and anything less than perfect is a failure. We’ve got to a point where we’re too afraid to try for fear of exposing our vulnerabilities. Perfectionism is a self-defeating and, therefore, painfully ironic process. But letting go of being perfect is the only way to live a more productive and fulfilled life.
Perfectionism is a complex psychological problem broadly defined as a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations. Studies have shown that the higher the perfectionism of an individual, the more psychological disorders they will suffer from. It is no exaggeration when scientists claim that perfectionism is an epidemic that is destroying people’s lives. But, over time, it’s become recognized by researchers as a multi-dimensional issue consisting of three kinds:
1. Self-oriented Perfectionism: This type defines those whose perfectionistic beliefs and behaviors are directed inwards. They’re individuals who place irrational significance on perfectionism, measure themselves against unrealistic expectations, and are overly critical. They also become severely self-punishing for their perceived inadequacies.
2. Socially Prescribed Perfectionism: They perceive others as judging and harshly and therefore seek approval and acceptance by displaying perfectionist tendencies for the benefit of others.
3. Other-oriented perfectionism: This is when the perfectionist’s expectations are external, and the individual imposes unrealistic expectations and standards on those around them.
So, how precisely does perfection inhibit our productivity? Besides the procrastination related to the fear of starting or affair to submit, perfectionists focus on the results rather than the progress, making them unwilling to take risks like trying new things or innovating. Many of us are prompted into falling down these perfectionist rabbit holes thanks to competitive work cultures, pride, or fear of failure. But the truth is that we can’t change the game of our industry or take our careers to the next level without taking risks.
Getting rid of perfectionism is the safer alternative to growth and reaching our full potential. Perfectionist standards aren’t healthy for those around you: Your team members, friends, or even your loved ones. This conscious or unconscious judgment will pollute your environment. For this reason, perfectionism can destroy your productivity. Instead of focusing on results, enjoy the process and don’t put so much pressure on yourself.