IS BEING A PERFECTIONIST HOLDING YOU BACK?
What’s the meaning of perfectionism really?
refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.
As far as I know perfection doesn’t exist because it’s subjective. This of course means that if we are after perfection, then we are already setting ourselves up for failure.
Now here’s the deal. The people we work with are often pretty highly self aware people. Even still they (and me too, many times) don’t recognize when we’re having moments of perfectionism that are holding us back.
WHY HIGH PERFORMERS (AND MILLENIALS) ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE PERFECTIONISTS
High achievers can be so susceptible because we think we’re just being conscientious. We’ve also probably been rewarded for that conscientiousness. Not just in our career but probably way back from the time we were children and we’re used to “winning” or “succeeding”.
When you’re used to always succeeding the prospect of trying something new, that understandably you might not be that good at because you’re a beginner, is really uncomfortable for us.
Also the fear of failure prevents us from taking any of those steps so instead we stay stuck because we don’t want to get out of that bubble.
Conscientiousness differs from perfection when we’re tying our self-worth to outcomes so it’s not just about winning or losing it’s about “I am a winner” or “I am a loser” and further, because we self identify as high achievers we need to keep this cycle of achievement going so that we can stay a winner.
HOW PERFECTIONISM SHOWS UP IN CAREER CHANGE
The single biggest way that we see perfectionism in people who want to change careers is many people come to us with the belief that there is a single correct occupation (and path to that occupation) out there that is the “right” one.
While it’s much more “romantic” to adopt the belief that the love of your life career is out there waiting for you somewhere and you just need to undergo the journey to find it, that’s not actually how it works at all. Not even close.
That thought process (I must find the “right” one) holds us back from taking real steps toward finding work that does actually fit, because if we don’t see a pathway then most often we won’t take steps forward.
The crazy thing is that making a career change for work, that allows you to be happy and well paid, is a bit like driving through the fog. You can only see so far ahead and as you move each mile down the road you realize that you have to make turns that you didn’t know were going to be there and couldn’t see ahead of time.
OK, I ADMIT IT. I HAVE PERFECTIONIST TENDENCIES. WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
We’ve put together six strategies, mentalities, approaches, tricks and mental hacks to make working through perfectionism much more doable (still not easy, but possible) and more functional… like when I traded my Infiniti coupe in for a mini-van.
BRING AWARENESS… SO YOU CAN PUNCH PERFECTION IN THE FACE
Here’s the thing: Perfectionism is unreasonable. No really, it’s impossible and illogical and you never really realize that in the moment. Instead you think “wow I really want to make a good impression for this job, I should create a portfolio”. Then I’m 5 hours into creating the portfolio and I think “wow I can’t send this out looking like this, but I’m out of time” so you don’t send it and… surprise! No result!
It’s situations like that where many of us don’t realize that perfectionism is taking over. I probably really didn’t need a full portfolio with 30+ projects to still make a great impression. Plus that feeling that it’s not good enough (you know that feeling) causes you to doubt that sending it is the right decision in the first place.
The only problem is a lot of times with perfectionism there’s an ideal that you’ve created behind it and the surest way to start unpacking it is to start asking yourself questions about why are the stakes so high and “why do I think that there’s only one way to do it?” And with ideals, a lot of times, it’s because we compare ourselves to other people and the way that they’ve done it.
One of the ways we see that commonly show up is people will come to me and say well my boss is grooming me to take over her role. And I would love to do this role but she has X years of experience or she has this expertise and I don’t have that.
You’ve created this ideal of the ONLY way to do this role. If you can’t live up to that then you can’t do that.
Instead you have to first bring awareness to the perfectionism so that you can shatter it, or knock it off it’s pedastal or punch it in the face. Whatever you do it has to be drastic otherwise you won’t escape it’s clutches.
In the boss example: “What would you bring to the role that’s different?” Because everything you do is unique and special and that might actually be the thing that turns the organization on its head in a good way.
There’s not only one way to do it!
Wabi Sabi is a Japanese philosophy which values imperfection, impermanence, and incompleteness. There is a particular tea ceremony used as a ritual part of wabi sabi where they use handmade bowls. These bowls aren’t like what most people would envision. Most of us wouldn’t recognize them to be valuable. They have cracks, and imperfections and are old and somewhat assymetrical.
That’s exactly why they’re valuable. All of those imperfections are reminders that that is what is truly valuable and makes a difference in life.
This is true of your career too and especially the journey of making a career change that fits you. It’s imperfect. You take 2 steps forward and have a learning that you could only get by taking those steps forward, but then it means that you must adjust your course or direction.
Eric Murphy did this many times as he thought he was well suited for one industry, but in taking steps to pursue that industry learned that it didn’t align with what he wanted at all. He could have viewed it as having to start over, but the reality is that’s how it works. Career Change is imperfect and without the cracks and imperfections, you don’t get to where you want to go. It’s messier than what all of us perfectionists would like… and that’s actually ok and even valuable.
STAIR STEPS NOT TRAMPOLINES
High achievers tend to want to find that trampoline and bounce straight off that trampoline to the end with perfect results. With that technique you might fall into something more quickly. It’s not necessarily going to be the best fit for you.
Nearly all of us (myself included) have the human tendency to look for the path that allows us to just walk right to the goal or destination that we want.
The contrasting reality is that if we want to run a marathon then we don’t just get up one day and pump out 26.2 miles if you’ve never run more than from the couch to the refrigerator in between Netflix episodes.
It’s a gradual process, much like climbing a set of stairs. Every step that you take literally puts you in a different position to make the next one easier to get to.
We look at stair steps not as right or wrong, or good or bad, but an opportunity to get closer to what you want. And we really make a mistake when we try to jump straight to the end without doing some of the work into those interim steps.
Caroline Adams a career coach on our team said it best.
All you need to worry about is the next step I think that’s another way that people kind of shut themselves down is because they can’t see that ultimate outcome. They just stop taking steps. And anyone who’s been through this process or maybe even those that are in the middle understand the value of those steps.
Guess I’m right back where I started from. I have to start over from scratch. Not at all. Thank goodness you’ve now got this valuable information, whereas had you not gotten that information and gotten into that job or industry you probably wouldn’t be that happy. And so look at it from the perspective of well, now I’ve taken another step closer to the job that’s going to be a better fit. It might take a little bit longer but I’m going to be much happier. And when you think about it in terms of time, let’s say you catapult yourself or bounce yourself from the trampoline sooner into a job you hate. Well you can’t really cut down on that time because now you’ve got to start the process over again. Whereas if you would have just kept taking steps and incrementally moved closer towards your goal we actually find that that shortens the time to the career that’s right for people, so you’re not starting over. You just need to keep moving and just pivot every now and then.
REFRAME NOT RETREAT
We make the stakes so darn high when we care about doing something!!! Whether it’s because of these ideals or because it’s something we really really want, it causes us not to get started. And so we start retreating before we’ve even taken any of the stair steps we mentioned above. So the idea is to reframe your next action and look at it as an experiment or as an opportunity to get some feedback for yourself.
For example, if you’re looking at your career change from the perspective of I must find a great job for me (and soon) then you’re unlikely to have much success, But if you reframe and view it as an opportunity to do research and find out more about the thing you’re interested in and find out about the person sitting across from you then you can much easier (and more quickly) move up those stair steps we talked about.
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU!!!
No, I’m sorry, it’s not all about you. we all have struggles. Maybe you had an interview and it didn’t go as you had totally planned it in your head or maybe you’re struggling to really figure out what it is that you want for your career. Often we get confused with those steps that we’re taking on the journey or what happens along the journey. We make those steps mean something about who we are.
We especially do this when we percieve something isn’t going according to plan. Perfectionism kicks in and because we’re “off plan” that must mean I’m not doing it right or I’m not good enough or I’m too old or I’m too young or I’m not smart enough….
Where this starts to really go wrong is when people start to second guess what they want. This means it’s really important to separate the things that happen on the journey from the person that’s taking that journey.
One of the biggest things that never seems to occur to people is that moving past perfectionism is actually a skill in itself. Much like other skills if you don’t continuously practice it, it doesn’t get any easier.
This of course means putting yourself intentionally in uncomfortable situations where you can recognize those perfectionistic feelings and actually lean in to them and do the action anyways.
Making this intentional discomfort a part of your life allows you to get better (really quickly) at making it possible to not get caught up unconciously in the perfectionism spiral.
The two keys here are it must be intentional that you’re putting yourself in this situation AND it must make you uncomfortable.
Read more about Career Wabi-sabi here: https://carolineadamscoaching.com/blog/millennial-women-perfectionism-kills-career-wabi-sabi
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