When coaching female entrepreneurs, one thing I see a lot is a tendency toward perfectionism. 

Perfectionism is something that I have struggled with myself. In some areas, I still struggle. 

We live in a world that seems to expect us to have it all together all the time. When we don’t, our flaws are pointed out to us. 

I remember the time I rushed and did a social media post. Yes, it had some obvious spelling mistakes. However, the message from someone that asked me what I was trying to achieve by the errors felt hurtful vs. helpful.  

You may not know I have a learning disability and spelling is difficult. Grammarly is one of my favorite applications, but it doesn’t always integrate well with apps, and I can miss mistakes.  

When I was a corporate accountant, the department spent a year on a campaign that challenged us to be less perfect. To focus on getting things done and consider if any more accuracy would influence a decision. I still use this as a guiding factor when managing my business finances.  

It breaks my heart when one of my clients struggles to move forward because of perfectionism. 

Don’t get me wrong; perfectionism has benefits like high performance, good productivity, discipline, and strong motivation. 

However, the costs outweigh the benefits. Let’s explore the costs and some ways we

The Façade of Perfection

At its core, perfectionism is the relentless pursuit of flawlessness in all aspects of life – career, relationships, appearance, and more.

However, the pressure to meet impossibly high standards often leads to a cycle of chronic stress, anxiety, burnout, and self-doubt. It prevents us from moving forward or making decisions.  

Let’s explore the costs in more detail. 

Mental and Emotional Strain

Perfectionists tend to set exceedingly high expectations for themselves, leading to a constant sense of disappointment and inadequacy. The fear of failure becomes paralyzing, causing individuals to avoid challenges or projects they believe they can’t excel. This avoidance can hinder personal and professional growth, preventing individuals from taking risks that could lead to valuable experiences and learning opportunities.

Moreover, perfectionists often tie their self-worth to their achievements, leaving them vulnerable to a rollercoaster of emotions based on their successes or failures. The relentless pursuit of perfection can create a distorted view of success, where any accomplishment is never “enough,” perpetuating a cycle of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

I relate to all of this. I always felt less than compared to my colleagues, thought I had to work harder than everyone else to achieve the same success, and always felt like an imposter in every position I held. 

Overall, perfectionists experience higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. They tend to overwork, forget to take breaks, say yes to too many things and burn out. 

Physical Toll

The chronic stress and anxiety associated with perfectionism can contribute to various health issues, including sleep disturbances, headaches, muscle tension, and even more severe conditions like heart disease.

Often, you will forgo exercising, rest, and healthy eating to keep working. Over long periods, this has a negative impact on our overall health. 

I may have graduated in the top 10 of my accounting designation but was very unhealthy. 

Strained Relationships

This cost may surprise you, especially when you think perfectionists want perfection in all areas of their lives. 

However, perfectionism can often lead to inflexibility and rigidity, which strains relationships. 

There is a need for control and a tendency to be intolerant of mistakes, and they often have difficulties adapting when information or circumstances change. 

When I worked in corporate, I used to tell my team to do “drive buys” to deliver changes or bad information. Meaning they were to come by, drop the bomb and leave. This gave me time to process the information so I didn’t react badly. 

I found working on group projects more difficult than working on my own. 

Cost to Productivity

Finally, perfectionism has a high cost to productivity. Perfectionists spend a lot of time checking and rechecking and over-preparing. They can fixate on a small detail that is often insignificant (the right font, color, picture, or word, anyone?). 

They can find it challenging to make a decision as they are constantly overthinking or need reassurance. 

Over the long term, the effects of lack of sleep, few breaks, and more lead to difficulties focusing and burnout.  

I can’t tell you how much time I used to spend on building itineraries for our vacations. These itineraries would then cause me stress because everything was scheduled to the minute, and when delays happened, it ruined the whole day.   Sigh. 

Breaking free from Perfection’s grasp

Acknowledging the high cost of perfectionism is the first step toward breaking free from its grip and finding a healthier way to approach life. Here are a few strategies to consider:

  1. Set Realistic Goals: Instead of aiming for perfection, focus on setting achievable and meaningful goals that allow for growth and progress without the paralyzing fear of failure. I also set goals for how long something should take (Parkinson’s Law) to ensure I don’t let something drag on forever. 
  2. Practice Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend. Embrace mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth rather than reflections of your worth.
  3. Embrace Imperfection: Understand that nobody is flawless, and imperfections are what make us uniquely human. Embrace your quirks and shortcomings, and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. I have a quote on my wall: “Done is better than perfect” to remind myself that things do not have to be perfect. 
  4. Prioritize Self-Care: I use Pomodoro’s to ensure I take both short and long breaks. I also schedule time for my Taekwondo class and other self-care activities. 
  5. Seek Support: If perfectionism is affecting your well-being, consider seeking support from a coach, therapist, or counselor. Professional guidance can provide valuable insights and strategies for managing perfectionist tendencies.

The pursuit of perfectionism may promise success, but the hidden costs can be steep – impacting mental health, physical well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life. By acknowledging the limitations of perfection and adopting a more balanced approach to life’s challenges, we can free ourselves from its overwhelming grasp and cultivate a healthier, more fulfilling existence.

Remember, the journey toward growth and self-improvement is a marathon, not a sprint, and embracing imperfection is an essential part of the process.

Perfectionism is about fear.
Fear of making a mistake.
Fear of disappointing others.
Frear of failure.

Michael Law

Let’s stay connected. I offer monthly tips to help you with productivity and self-leadership.

Want to learn more about how I can help? I offer a free 30-minute strategy session. Book HERE