When Good Enough Is Enough: Navigating Perfectionism

I have been battling perfectionism for most of my career. And many women I know have adopted this mindset at work, but rarely talk about it. Perfectionism involves overly high expectations and what ultimately amounts to unachievable goals, creating a constant lack of satisfaction and cycle of self-criticism.

As a result of having spent so many years trying to overcome barriers in the workplace, and having to prove themselves equal, I believe many women feel that everything they do should be perfect in order for them to stay the course or get ahead. Unfortunately, it can create a lot of adverse effects.

High negative perfectionism has been associated with higher levels of depression and stress, according to a 2020 study from Texas State University.

Also, a study of workers in Italy during the early lockdown period of the covid-19 pandemic showed that women experienced perfectionism more than men and that it played a crucial role in the experience of burnout.

For many years, I fed my inner critic with the fear of failure or anxiety about underperforming. But there are 3 things that I learned as a result.

The first is that sometimes good enough is good enough. You’ve probably heard the phrase progress, not perfection, and I think more companies and leaders truly believe in that statement now. Progress allows us to make and recognize headway. All of those little achievements along the journey make us happy and keep up momentum. Even if we worked 24/7, we still wouldn’t get everything perfect. So, finding more opportunities for progress puts us in a better place mentally.

The second thing I learned is that failure is ok. As a marketer, I’ve been part of projects that failed miserably, from product launches that didn’t sell, to campaigns that didn’t cut through. But I learned from those experiences and turned them into opportunities to create something better the next time around. And there are so many more prominent examples Arianna Huffington was rejected 36 times before her second book was accepted and look at the empire she’s built! Giving people permission to take risks and learn from mistakes at work comes with the territory of being a strong leader.

And, thirdly, I’ve learned that I don’t need to be perfect in order to attain a promotion or new role. A few years ago I took a job that both my supervisor and I knew would be a growth opportunity for me. I didn’t know how to do every part of it, but I had the right skill set and knew how to hire the right teammates that would enable us to succeed. Just because you don’t have 100% of the qualifications doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be a great fit for a new job.

So today, I chase what brings me joy and progress, instead of what I think will make me perfect.

Photo credit: Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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