There are many people who would describe themselves as perfectionists to varying degrees. There are scales when it comes to perfectionism and although many people would cite being a perfectionist as a good quality or even a vital skill, it can be tiring to set high standards for yourself and others. How can you maximise your perfectionism without experiencing exhaustion, frustration or even low-confidence?
The three types of perfectionists, according to Canadian clinical psychologists Dr. Paul Hewitt and Dr. Gordon Flett are, Socially Prescribed, Other-Oriented and Self-Oriented.
Socially Prescribed – Very self-critical and a feeling that they are held to the highest of standards by everyone.
Other-Oriented – Holding everyone to high standards and being extremely frustrated when these are not met.
Self-Oriented – Have a more positive attitude towards perfectionism. They often hold themselves to high-standards but crucially the standards are realistic, and their goals are achievable.
Many people are very self-aware of their own level of perfectionism and assume that this is just, “who they are”. But it is possible to channel your perfectionism and use it to your benefit. You can still maintain high standards whilst experiencing satisfaction and not feeling burnt out. They key to this is to achieve, “healthy striving”.
Healthy striving is about finding the balance when it comes to perfectionism. In order to find balance, you need to ask yourself how much of a perfectionist are you and what category, outlined above, do you fall into? Once you know this you can begin to use your perfectionism to achieve positive outcomes without feeling anxious, pressurised or exhausted.
How to achieve healthy striving.
Setting yourself high goals is important and shows ambition, but these need to be realistic and achievable. Striving for your perfect job or the perfect company is admirable, but it is a journey and takes time. Having to adjust your goals along the path is a great way of avoiding disappointment and that feeling of failure.
When you reach your perfect goal or achievement the feeling of euphoria can be a lasting experience but often it is dampened by the effort expelled in reaching the end. Enjoy the process as well as the outcome. Be aware that the journey you are undertaking as a student striving for a high-grade degree, a graduate looking for a job, or partaking in a graduate programme is a difficult, albeit rewarding one, and you should feel a tremendous amount of pride and self-worth.
Learn from your mistakes. This is a simple piece of advice that is often touted but it holds significant weight for perfectionists. Often, achieving your goal is not enough, it must be achieved the perfect way and the outcome must be exactly what you envisaged. Mistakes or setbacks can lead to self-doubt, but instead of letting this effect you in a negative sense use it as a learning curve and this will help you to grow as a person and as a perfectionist.
Communication is often cited by employers as a key skill needed to succeed in the graduate workplace. It is a soft skill that can be developed while at university through joining various clubs and societies and engaging in group projects. Through constant communication you will be able to refine your ideas and how you explain them to others. Being surrounded with people who have opposing views and ideas to your own is also vital in learning how to take constructive criticism and then using that criticism to improve your ideas.
You will likely achieve your goals in large part because of your perfectionism rather than in-spite of it. Hold yourself to realistic high standards and strive for your goals but remember to enjoy the journey.
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