If you’ve worked in a corporate environment, you’ve no doubt encountered perfectionism. Maybe a manager edited every inch of your work. Maybe you check and recheck documents before you hit send. Maybe it’s the unspoken competition to be online answering emails at the latest.
Perfectionism is striving to avoid mistakes at all costs, and for managers and employees alike, it can be a tricky thing to spot. We’re pushed to do our best at work, and many corporations hire high achievers. But perfection is unattainable, long term, and when taken too far, perfectionism can harm your mental and physical health. It can create toxic environments at work that cause turn over and low morale.
Here are some common signs of perfectionism:
- You are overly critical of others—and yourself. You rarely give anyone the benefit of the doubt.
- No matter how much you do right, you replay every mistake, even if it’s something as arbitrary as a misspelling in an email.
- You rarely delegate because it’s easier to do everything yourself.
- New situations or tasks make you feel overwhelmed, especially if you think you aren’t going to excel.
- Whether it’s reveling in someone else’s failure or beating yourself up at someone else’s success, you are always comparing yourself to others.
- You can’t relax. You go to bed thinking about work and you reach for your phone when you wake up to check email.
- You prioritize work over personal relationships and your health.
These don’t sound very pleasant, do they? While perfectionists may churn out good work, there comes a point when striving to do everything right becomes unbearable and hurts productivity. It can paralyze you with fear—fear that you aren’t good enough or smart enough or strong enough for the task at hand—which in turn leads you to procrastinate. A project can hang over your head and cause anxiety and panic.
Perfectionists are rarely happy with themselves and others. They can struggle to find joy in the moment and create meaningful relationships with others.
If you recognize any of the typical signs of perfectionism, it’s time to sit down, take a breath, and consider how to break free from these harmful patterns and realize your full potential. For a full breakdown of how to escape this vicious cycle, stay tuned for the next installment in this perfectionism series.