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Remember when we thought being a perfectionist was a good thing?

The living room was in darkness. I sat hunched over in the glow from the screen frantically tapping. The next morning I was being interviewed for a more senior role and I thought I was as ready. They might ask you what your weaknesses are you know, my friend helpfully pointed out while chatting on the phone. What? OMG. My weaknesses? I mean, it's a question I know the answer to for sure, but..... I definitely cannot tell them the truth, they would never hire me.


So there I was past 11pm googling 'good things to be bad at in interviews'. Each search concluded one answer: tell them you are a perfectionist. Seemingly being a perfectionist was the perfect crime. A strength dressed up as a weakness, that'll fool them!


Remember when we thought being a perfectionist was secretly a good thing?


When I googled in in 2022 this is what I got:


A perfectionist is someone who has a personality that strives for flawlessness. This is often accomplished through fixating on imperfections, trying to control situations, working hard, or being critical of the self or others.


Imagine saying that in my interview! My weakness? Well it's funny you should ask, I am a perfectionist so I have a personality that strives for flawlessness. I accomplish it through fixating on imperfections, trying to control situations, working hard, and being critical of myself and others.


It doesn't sound much like a strength! It sounds stressful.


When I coach self-identified perfectionists I see the tricky side of it second hand. Everything has to be a perfect standard to avoid any kind of criticism. It's a hard path because it requires A LOT of attention and often quite a a bit of fear to keep it up. It has plus points for sure, quality work for one! But sometimes people get sick of it, say it's tiring. All the overworking, over-preparing, over-checking.


When I work with perfectionists to increase their confidence the perfectionism typically reduces. We often coach on what standard they would consciously choose for their work, if not perfect, what? 80%? 70%? 60%? We look at whether some failure or mistakes are ok, and what they are making it mean if they happen.


When need to be perfect loosens its's grip, confidence increases. They usually find themselves working less hours because they aren't checking that email for the millionth time.


Which sounds pretty perfect to me.

PS: This is some of the work we will be doing together in the Confident at Work programme - join us to find out what life could look like a little less perfect. Book your call to find out more here.




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