Updated: Sep 28
Most people have a basic understanding of perfectionism. It’s an underlying need to be (or appear to be) perfect, especially in the workplace. There are varying opinions on whether perfectionism is a good thing. Though it has its “positives,” it can be an obsession for some, leading to expectations that can never be met and a life full of disappointment.
Perfectionists are rarely 100% happy with their achievements and accomplishments. Does this sound familiar? When was the last time you achieved something important, or were even congratulated on a job well done? How did you handle it? Were you able to feel the deserved satisfaction of completing something or doing something well? If not, you may be dealing with more than perfectionism.
The Problem With Perfectionism
Before we dive into why perfectionism can be problematic, it’s important to understand what it’s not.
Perfectionism is not just a drive to do things well. It’s not wanting to be the best version of yourself. It’s not even the practice of setting high expectations. Rather, most people with perfectionism set impossible expectations. They can add extra stress to your life, and end up putting you in a vicious cycle because you don’t allow yourself to experience any relief from the stress.
When you set an impossible standard of perfection, you’ll always fall short. You won’t feel a sense of satisfaction from your accomplishments, and you might even start to experience negative self-talk. That can lead to low self-esteem and depression. It can also lead to burnout.
When Perfectionism Takes a Toll
When perfectionism starts to impact your life in negative ways, it’s important to take a closer look at how you’re handling things. Do you find yourself procrastinating more than usual? Do you avoid situations with a high risk of failure? Maybe you have difficulty making decisions because none of the options or solutions are perfect.
If so, you could be setting yourself up for a state of perfectionism that is extremely self-critical and could lead to burnout. Some of the common signs of burnout include:
Feeling constantly overwhelmed
Lack of motivation
Perfectionism tends to trigger burnout because you start to fall into negative patterns that can make you feel like nothing you do will ever be “good enough.” You might think that nothing you do has any meaning or purpose. Again, you're facing a vicious cycle that will often leave you feeling more depressed and hopeless.
What Can You Do?
Perfectionism and burnout are two very different things. But, it’s often perfectionism that triggers burnout. Understanding those differences and taking stock in how you feel can help you to realize where you are and how much you might be struggling with your own expectations.
If you’re experiencing perfection-induced burnout, self-care is the best thing you can do. Self-care looks different for everyone, but it can include things like socializing, exercising, eating healthy foods, and trying to find a better work-life balance. Unleashing your creativity is also a wonderful way to take better care of your mental health. Try writing in a journal, drawing or painting, or taking photographs while out in nature.
If you can’t seem to move past your perfectionist ways, it might be time to talk to a professional. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best. But when you don’t feel satisfied with your achievements and it’s causing issues in your life, something has to give before your burnout leads to long-term depression.
Feel free to contact me to set up an appointment. Together, we’ll get to the root cause of your perfectionism and work on skills you can use to set realistic goals while gaining a sense of satisfaction from the things you accomplish each day.