Perfectionism and how to manage it
Updated: Sep 14
“Embrace being perfectly imperfect. Learn from your mistakes and forgive yourself, you’ll be happier.” ― Roy Bennett
What is perfectionism?
Perfectionism can be split into three sub-groups: self-orientated perfectionism; other-orientated perfectionism; socially-prescribed perfectionism (Edgerton N & O’Riordan S, 2020).
Self-orientated perfectionism is when you set very strict expectations of yourself and you will criticise yourself harshly regardless of your achievement.
You measure yourself in terms of your success or accomplishments. For example, you might have achieved your monthly target but you may not have achieved your record, you will judge yourself brutally because you may still feel you did not meet your target.
A person with this type of perfectionism may avoid perceived failure and therefore procrastinate on a task or project to avoid this failure.
However, a positive of self-orientated perfectionism for instance, is that a person’s work will be performed to a high standard, will be successful and highly organised (Corrie S & Palmer S, 2014).
Other-orientated perfectionism is setting high standards of others which may have unrealistic expectations.
Perhaps you might have set unrealistic targets for your team / employees and will judge them harshly if they do not reach that target. You may ignore external factors that could have influenced the output, such as illnesses or bereavement within the team.
As a result, a team may feel undervalued, overworked, demoralised, demotivated and well-being deteriorating.
Socially-prescribed perfectionism is when an individual values and views themselves in the eyes of others in a critical way.
For instance, you might perceive that you are not performing as you should be and feel that your line manager or employer does not think you are doing a good job. This could lead you to feeling anxious about doing your role and balancing your other responsibilities in order to get praise from your line manager / employer.
Consequences of perfectionism
Research has found those that have self-orientated and socially-prescribed perfectionism, sadly suffer the most with depression, mental health breakdowns, suicide and / or suicidal thoughts (Corrie S & Palmer S, 2014). In addition, people who are less self-aware may find it difficult to adapt or being flexible in new situations or environments (Palmer S et al, 2008).
How to manage perfectionism
One strategy we use in the coaching room is to look at the costs and benefits of performing as you are currently. The purpose of this conversation is to challenge and clarify your thinking of what your reasons are for performing at this level.
I would love to invite you to complete the table below and create some actions you could take to creating balance in your life and managing your perfectionism.
Take care, Paula
Corrie S & Palmer S, 2014. Coaching individuals with perfectionistic tendencies when high standards help and hinder. Volume 3, Edition 1: The Danish Journal of Coaching Psychology
Edgerton N & O’Riordan S Dr, 2020. Primary Certificate in Performance Coaching, The Essential Management Development Programme & The Foundation Coaching Development Programme. Centre for Coaching: London
Palmer S, Grant A & O’Connell B. Lost and Found. Vol 2, Issue 4: Reproduced from Coaching at Work