A Coaching Power Tool created by Donna Robinson
(Relationship & Life coach, UNITED STATES)
If I can’t do it perfectly then it’s not worth doing
Merriam-Webster defines perfectionism as a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable; especially: the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of worthlessness.
Perfectionism is a fairly common phenomenon. It is natural for most of us to strive to overcome our human imperfections. Very few people enjoy making mistakes or exposing their flaws, nor do they appreciate the value of the learning experience. This tendency is exacerbated by a society, which feeds the belief that we can and should improve on any flaw.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
This message is told to us by the media, the workplace, school systems and even our families that we must always do our best. The perfectionist interprets this message differently and reinforces the notion that, “If we can’t do it extremely well; why bother?”
Perfectionism can drive people to accomplishments and provide the motivation to persevere in the face of discouragement and obstacles.
Roedell (1984) argues: “In its positive form, perfectionism can provide the driving energy which leads to great achievement. The meticulous attention to detail, necessary for scientific investigation, the commitment which pushes composers to keep working until the music realizes the glorious sounds playing in the imagination, and the persistence which keeps great artists at their easels until their creation matches their conception all result from perfectionism.”
In its pathological form, perfectionism can be damaging. It can take the form of procrastination when used to postpone tasks and self-deprecation when used to excuse poor performance or to seek sympathy from other people. In general, maladaptive perfectionists feel constant pressure to meet their high standards, which creates cognitive dissonance when one cannot meet their own expectations. Perfectionism has been associated with numerous other psychological and physiological complications as well.
Overall there is nothing wrong with trying to be our best self. Excellence as a choice can be rewarding. The desire to be perfect becomes a problem when we believe that perfection is necessary for self esteem, peace of mind and acceptance by others. This is the focus of this Power Tool.
Traits associated with perfectionism:
- You place excessive demands on yourself.
- Others would describe you as a perfectionistic.
- You often obsess about the details of a task, even if it is not important.
- You become annoyed when others don’t act as well as you do (be on time, neat, organized etc.).
- You get upset if you make a mistake.
- You often have a mental list of things you should be doing.
- You never seem to be doing enough.
- You tend to notice any error in yourself and others before I notice the positive.
- You have an all or nothing philosophy. If I can’t do it all, or do it well, why bother?
- You are devastated by criticism.
- You have difficulty making decisions.
It is easy to see how these traits can prevent us from achieving our goals or never feeling satisfied even when we have achieved them. The all or nothing mentality can prevent us from even taking the first step.
Perfectionism can prevent us from achieving our goals and moving forward with our lives. We can become paralyzed by fear.
How can we move from perfectionism to achieving balance and a more realistic view of ourselves?
Coaching is defined as helping the client to become their most excellent self. This spirit of excellence would enable us to see progress and find balance that would otherwise be withheld by a spirit of perfectionism. As coaches we can shift perspective by focusing on balance rather than perfectionism.
Balance is defined as: being in a state of equilibrium; to compose or arrange so as to create a state of harmony.