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How your struggle for perfection could actually ruin your life

(OPINION EDITORIAL) The drive to be perfect can lead to burnout. But before it gets to that point, it can also poison relationships and ruin your career.


High standards or impossible standards?

We’re taught to look for the “perfect” in life. Whether that’s a job, spouse, or home, this pursuit of perfection is actually a burden. When it seeps over into our work life, there are pros and cons. According to researchers, perfectionism in the business world can be a good thing because it helps you set high standards and work hard to reach those goals.

Quite often, people take pro-active steps toward perfectionism, and they recognize when standards have to be adjusted for human error. If you can balance that in your life, it should help you avoid the negative effects which come when the desire for perfectionism becomes exaggerated.

The dark side of perfectionism

The drive to be perfect can lead to burnout. But before it gets to that point, it can also poison relationships and ruin your career. How is that? It seems like wanting to be perfect is a good thing, but it hurts you because:

  1. You aren’t using your time wisely. Perfectionists tend to focus on every little detail, instead of looking at the big picture. Excellence is great, but when you spend two hours on a small thing that ultimately doesn’t matter, you’ve wasted time.
  2. You can’t make decisions quickly. Perfectionists often wait for all the “stars to be aligned” before solving a problem. Successful individuals know that “if at first you don’t succeed, try again.”
  3. You have to know everything. Sometimes, perfectionists feel like they have to have all the answers. Great leaders know that they need good people to help them along the way.
  4. You aren’t authentic. Perfectionists often spend so much time worrying about making mistakes or what others think that they just aren’t genuine. Many researchers believe perfectionism is just a disguise for insecurity. It’s ok to be flawed, and you seem more human by admitting it.

Seek excellence, but avoid perfectionism

Society tells us that perfectionism is a virtue, but one sport psychologist found it to be a “largely destructive trait.” Look at what your perfectionism is costing you. Spending one hour looking for two pennies when balancing your checkbook doesn’t make sense in the long run. Instead of attempting to be perfect, strive to be flexible or to persevere in the face of trials.


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Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.

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