Is it good to always be good?

Overcoming Perfectionism: 9 Perfectly Simple Tips

It is a mistake not to want to make mistakes. Some people waste their entire lives trying. Doing all things 100 percent and perfectly is not only ineffective. Perfectionism leads to tunnel vision: no matter what you achieve, it is never good enough. Luck - it is always one step ahead. Perfectionism is an eternal hunt that only results in decreased self-confidence. Or it ensures that we can no longer enjoy what we have achieved. Instead, we only see the errors in detail. How this negative perfectionism can be overcome ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Perfectionism Causes: Good & Bad Perfection

Perfectionism is not always the same. This is what the Koblenz scientist and perfectionism expert Christine Altstötter-Gleich (“Perfectionism: Living self-determinedly with high standards”) found. It has both different causes and different forms. So it would be a mistake to condemn the desire for high quality, precision and perfection across the board. Instead, we need a more differentiated view of the property: there is good perfection - and bad.

Bad perfection

It is not uncommon for the “neurotic addiction to perfection” (Altstötter-Gleich) to hide the unfulfilled desire for attention or applause, the desire for more control and the attempt to protect oneself from abuse and shame. However, this is as effective as two days at a roundabout. Affected perfectionists are often strong-willed people with a hard shell but an extremely sensitive core. They always do their best - but for the wrong, extrinsic reasons. This creates a downward spiral of striving, stress and failure.

Good perfection

In contrast to negative perfection, this form is more directed inwards. It has its cause there, too: These perfectionists set high standards and standards for themselves and try to raise the bar a little higher every time. Not for others, but to grow from it yourself, to learn from it, to develop yourself and to be the ideal image of yourself every day anew.

In fact, successful people are characterized precisely by the fact that they make more, not fewer mistakes - precisely because they also make more than others. A mistake is not bad for them if it is not repeated and you learn from it. Just think of IBM founder Tom Watson: When one of his employees made a serious mistake, it cost the company $ 600,000. Watson was then asked if he would not fire the employee, which Watson vehemently denied. He just said, “I just invested $ 600,000 in his education. Why should someone else get this know-how for free? "

Perfectionism Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? 2 mistakes

Perfectionism can have its origin in the personality and the innate temperament of the person concerned. But it can also arise from compulsive behavior. Even good perfectionism can quickly turn into cramps. For example, when these people feel that they are not meeting their own requirements, not meeting them. Then the whole thing develops - good or bad - into a perfectionism trap. Accordingly, the two most common mistakes perfectionists make are:

  • Perfectionists equate their achievements and successes with their self-worth and therefore pursue permanent self-optimization. In the extreme, however, this can mutate into a kind of narcissistic self-actualization.
  • Perfectionists think in black and white categories. Anyone who is not perfect, who does not do everything right, automatically becomes a loser. In this view, however, human errors are too weighty. Working with people like that on the job can be hell. After all, they're not just so hard on themselves.

A look to the east shows that it can work differently: In Japan, for example, people appreciate the blessings of “Wabi-Sabi” and “Kintsugi” - the art of accepting weaknesses and finding beauty in the imperfect.

Only perfectionists know these problems

The pursuit of perfection can of course also be a subtle way of pretending to be busyness and conscientious and in truth postponing risky or annoying tasks (see: Procrastination). We'd rather tinker with a few unimportant quirks instead of just doing it. It is difficult for outsiders to understand how perfectionists think and why they cannot come to terms with good results themselves. They are problems that only perfectionists understand ...

  • Perfectionists find themselves lazy.
    Many perfectionists are workhorses. You can always find something to do. The word “pause” does not appear in their vocabulary. Nevertheless, they have a bad image of themselves and their work performance. Many assume laziness. Especially when tasks take longer than planned.
  • Perfectionists are prone to self-exploitation.
    Do you work overtime - and then take the rest of the work home with you to continue working there? This happens regularly with perfectionists. These people do not shy away from going beyond their limits in order to complete projects or avoid minor shortcomings. If this becomes chronic, negative consequences for health are programmed.
  • Perfectionists have a hard time accepting criticism.
    A perfectionist's greatest critic is himself. Those affected question everything they do and are constantly improving. This also makes it difficult for them to accept criticism. After all, it seems impossible for anyone to discover a bug that is supposed to have escaped them.
  • Perfectionists take everything personally.
    Objective criticism of a task or a nicely meant joke - there is no such thing for perfectionists. Their latent uncertainty leads to the fact that every comment is related to their own person and turned into a negative. As a defensive reaction, many perfectionists see themselves confirmed in their efforts and will proceed even more meticulously in the future in order to avoid further criticism.
  • Perfectionists find it difficult to fit into teams.
    When it comes to teamwork, everyone has to pull together and compromise. It is difficult for a perfectionist to compromise. He always has something to complain about in his colleagues' work and demands the same attention to detail and care from them as he does from himself. He or she would like to take the project into their own hands.

Perfectionism Test: How Perfectionist Are You?

Do the above descriptions sound familiar to you? Your own perfectionism can be obvious. However, many perfectionists are also masters at fooling themselves - and do not realize how perfectionist they really are. To sharpen this self-awareness, below is a simple perfectionism test. Although it does not make any scientific claims, it does help to improve one's self-image. Please add up: How many of the statements can you agree with?

  • I am very fixated on details and always try to consider every eventuality.
  • If I notice an error, I have to fix it immediately.
  • I always point out to colleagues or Joy when they make a mistake.
  • Overtime always happens because I didn't finish my tasks on time.
  • I expect top performance from myself at all times.
  • I can't understand how anyone can be satisfied with less.
  • I expect an equally high level of commitment from my colleagues.
  • I always have the feeling that I can do something better, no matter how long I've been working on something.
  • Before I start, I need a precise plan.
  • I often have the feeling that I cannot meet requirements.
  • The pressure keeps bothering me and I feel exhausted.
  • My self-esteem depends on my performance.
  • I constantly compare myself to others.
  • I am very difficult to deal with negative criticism and I take it very personally.
  • I am scared of making mistakes.

Perfectionism Test: The Evaluation

  • 0 to 5 consents: Perfectionism is not a problem for you. They have recognized that perfection is not always desirable and that it can also have negative effects. This knowledge will save you a lot of stress. You just shouldn't fall off the horse on the other side and get sloppy: a certain perfectionism in important tasks has its uses.
  • 6 to 11 consents: Perfect! - You have a balanced relationship with perfectionism. In the right situations, you are ready to deliver or demand 100 percent. On the other hand, you know that not every result can or must be perfect. So you can be satisfied with good results too.
  • 12 to 15 consents. Your perfectionism has reached a point where it is time to do something about it. You make your happiness and well-being dependent on your performance and put yourself under too much pressure in the process. Don't judge yourself so harshly, try to accept that mistakes are a part of it and seek help from others. This is not a sign of weakness, it shows true greatness.

Perfectionism Dangers: Trapped in the Hamster Wheel

Quite often, the documented desire to do everything perfectly should give some career that decisive kick. Such people are considered committed, hungry for performance and reliable. Qualities that every manager appreciates. Higher, further, faster - striving for superlatives is only a camouflage for the fact that you voluntarily climb into the hamster wheel and try to prove something to yourself and others. Just what? And who

Quite often we try to please people who should be us. Worse still: We want to prove something to people who shouldn't have more influence on our lives than a slice of toast. Of course, it's not about doing things by halves in the future. Anyone who gets on an airplane expects - and rightly so - that the pilot will give his best and that the technician will have maintained the machine perfectly beforehand. Your own life depends on it. But in many other places in everyday life this 110 percent thinking is out of place.

Deficiencies can even broaden the horizon: Without (navigational) errors, Christopher Columbus would never have discovered America. Many discoverers and inventors are distinguished precisely by the fact that they made mistakes, experimented and improvised. The strategy for this: dock, shoot, aim! The order is not a coincidence: Sure, this would not be a recommended strategy in a shooting competition. In all other cases it can be useful:

  • First, define your goals.
  • After that, go straight to the point.
  • And readjust as you work.

The result doesn't have to be worse - but you can get there much sooner.

Overcoming Perfectionism: 9 Simple Tips

An important step out of the perfectionism trap is to recognize that the expectations (of yourself or others) are unrealistically high or unreasonable. Perfectionists who primarily try to avoid mishaps become increasingly risk averse and control addicted - until they only step on the spot. Letting five go straight shows more sovereignty and also brings you further. The British singer Mel C ("Spice Girls") once said of herself:

I was never satisfied with myself, nothing seemed good enough to me. I always wanted to be perfect. In the end, I only had to go to the therapist.

It can go that far, but it doesn't have to. So don't worry: a little imperfection saves energy, time - and in this case even money. So that you never don't make the same mistake ...

9 ways out of the perfectionism trap

  1. Keep the big picture in mind.
    Many perfectionists get bogged down in details. Effect: The project is taking longer than it should and it finally becomes overwhelming for you. A love of detail only leads to a tunnel vision.
  2. Be gracious to yourself.
    Stop tearing yourself apart if something doesn't go as planned. Don't work on what you can't do anyway, but rather strengthen your strengths. Chronic self-doubts only drag you down and make you more insecure each time. Inferiority complexes begin like this.
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others.
    Everyone can do something - and some just a little better than others. Talents are just distributed unevenly. Your job is not to ensure justice, but to make the most of your own talents. That's enough, isn't it ?!
  4. Set realistic expectations.
    Nobody will expect miracles from you. So why you? It is enough that you try to do your thing well. Often, even 80 percent of the optimum is completely sufficient to achieve your goal. Otherwise, there is a risk of postponing important decisions again and again until everything is the way you want it to be. And that never happens or the train has long since left.
  5. Expect to make mistakes.
    At best, gods can afford zero tolerance for errors. German engineers maybe too. But the rest of us have to live with making mistakes. Even more: we often learn more from mistakes than from successes. So don't see them as an enemy, but as an opportunity.
  6. Learn to deal with criticism.
    It is a misconception that perfection protects against criticism. Trying to please everyone works like a nerve poison: first it clouds it, then it paralyzes. If you try, you will inevitably get bogged down, lose sight of your goal and, on top of that, sacrifice your backbone. Anyone who bows to every resistance has neither steadfastness nor assertiveness. Such a person will never guide others: He is already guided - by everyone!
  7. Ask for help.
    Nobody can do everything alone. In fact, it is a sign of greatness to admit one's own weaknesses and seek help at those points.
  8. Analyze less.
    You can also over-analyze problems. This, too, is a form of obsession with detail. Or a form of procrastination: For fear of having to get started and then possibly making mistakes, the analysis simply continues. Nothing against good planning. But don't deceive yourself by doing this!
  9. Just do it.
    You can take the sentence literally in its double meaning: Get started at last - and don't make things unnecessarily complicated.

Perfectionism favors workaholism

Passion and commitment for and in the job you practice are essential for success. Likewise, the ambition to move and achieve great things. As always, you can overdo it with these good qualities - and, whoosh, it turns into something negative: workaholism. In German: "Arbeitswut".

Workaholism is not something to be taken lightly. People who suffer from it don't just work extra hard or hard. They are simply unable to finish their jobs - either physically or mentally. In other words: They don't really know how to end the workday. In short: work is not part of your life, it IS your life.

The consequences are obvious: Those who only work, work, work without ever recovering or clearing their head, sooner or later suffer burnout. First the good ideas stay away, then the fun and finally your health suffers. Researchers led by Joachim Stoeber from the University of Kent once examined which factors promote workaholism and identified two culprits:

  • perfectionism
  • High motivation

Above all, the so-called “self-oriented perfectionists”, ie those who set the highest standards for themselves and their work, showed the maximum risk. Mind you, this is not an appeal for more work-life balance. Rather, despite all the passion and ambition for the job, one thing must not be forgotten: There is still a life besides a career!

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17th December 2020Author: Jochen Mai

Jochen Mai is the founder and editor-in-chief of the career bible. The author of several books lectures at the TH Köln and is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach and consultant.

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