Many people are proud to describe themselves as perfectionists. However, is perfectionism healthy and desirable? How does it translate into efficiency at work and in other areas of life?

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is the pursuit of perfection in specific areas or even in all aspects of life. The perfectionist’s highest virtue is accuracy. The work he or she does must be done perfectly, without any shortcomings. The cake should taste the best and the flat should shine. E-mails sent to colleagues or friends cannot have any error.

On the one hand, perfectionism is associated with care, which in itself is something good, on the other, it causes psychological discomfort, promotes stress reactions, fuels anxiety. It also affects efficiency to a greater or lesser extent. Perfectionism and productivity – does perfectionism affect efficiency?

„Good” and „bad” perfectionism

To start with, it is worth making a distinction between healthy perfectionism and perfectionism with signs of a neurotic disorder. Healthy perfectionism is expressed in care, focus and accuracy in delivery of tasks. What makes a difference is the lack of subcutaneous anxiety.

Neurotic perfectionism is expressed in the similar way, but its driving force is strong anxiety, often even unperceived. Perfectionism is often a continuous series of attempts to camouflage some flaws, deficiencies, and disabilities. Every mistake confronts the person with what he or she wanted to oust due to his perfection.

Why are some people perfectionists and some not?

The answer to this question is contained in the past of every human being. Generally speaking, the problem boils down to attitude towards experienced failures in life. People free from perfectionist fear treat their mistakes and failures as lessons that allow them to develop and fully leverage their Individual abilities.

In contrast, perfectionists treat them as proof that they are incapable, incompetent, devoid of talent. This is accompanied by a number of negative emotions: guilt, sadness, anger, fear, pessimism. Perfectionism could therefore be described as a compulsive fear of failure.

The source of perfectionism may also be adverse environmental factors that played a role in the early stages of life. If a child learns, for example, from his parents that he or she deserves their affection only if he or she does something right – then in later life he or she falls into the trap of perfectionism without even realizing it.

perfectionism and productivity

Perfectionism vs. creativity

Perfectionism greatly hinders creativity. Under the pressure of the imagined ideal, it is difficult to let the imagination act without restraint. Perfectionists have a tendency to disregard their capabilities, work beyond their strength, show excessive criticism not only towards themselves, but also towards others. In the light of perfectionist expectations, no job is good enough.

This results in constant dissatisfaction, frustration, often leading to burnout, to abandoning areas in which one is good, but in which one cannot achieve the dream ideal. Therefore, Perfectionism also affects efficiency. The optimal level of efficiency lies somewhere between a total disregard for one’s expectations and own internal requirements and excessive care for every detail. Each of these extremes adversely affects work.

How to handle perfectionism?

The answer to this question depends on what past experience created the Desire to be perfect. In some cases, it is enough to let go of the reins, not stick to the principle of “all or nothing”. With highly developed perfectionism, which significantly hinders functioning, psychotherapy is needed. Coaching sessions can also help.

Author profile

Everyone sometimes seems to be down in the mouth. Nobody feels like a dog with a two tails for 24 hours a day. And there is nothing wrong with that! As a therapist I help others understand and deal with their emotions. It's a difficult process but worth the effort. I'm a great listener so maybe that's why my patients like me so much. I am the outdoor type of person. For the most weekends I'm taking care of my garden. Being among nature make me feel on cloud nine.

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