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Why Perfectionism Is Killing Your Business

7 min read
Vlad Kovalskiy
April 18, 2017
Last updated: April 5, 2023
Why Perfectionism Is Killing Your Business
In between confidence, integrity, and passion, the long list of “qualities that make a great leader” particularized a number of personality traits that, unlike these three, perfectionists rarely possess. Though their persistence, attention to details and unwavering ambition drive them forward, their overly (self-)critical nature is hardly ever a recipe for success. Whether in the form of unrealistic expectations or approval seeking, the negative traits of perfectionism plague all those who seek impeccability. 

In the business world, just like in life, these individuals thrive only rarely. Here’s why perfectionism might be sabotaging your business as we speak, just as well as how to take a more balanced approach.

1. Perfectionists Get Less Done

Boldly marching under the “quality over quantity” parole, a perfectionist actually gets less done. According to the Enneagram personality type assessment, your demanding nature strives toward order and utmost accuracy. You are principled, which certainly allows you to meet your standards and goals. But, there’s a handicapping catch that you might not be well-aware of: extreme attention to details and methodicalness can significantly slow down your progress, not to mention break project deadlines.

Instead of spending hours choosing, evaluating and debating the best possible course of action, limit your decision-making time and accept that nothing is ideal. Perfection is attainable only in theory, and the harsh reality of your day to day existence complies with different, less idyllic rules. Fortunately for your business ventures, this means that “standard” is the new “exceptional”!

2. Perfectionists Rarely Take Risks

Whether they recognize it or not, perfectionists are often burdened by low self-esteem. If your compulsion to achieve flawlessness is only moderate, your chances for making it are more than great. In any other case, exaggerated perfectionism – which psychology treats as a personality disposition – can be quite destructive. Spurred from a need for positive feedback, it goes hand in hand with self-deprecation, and results in a paradox: since both your performance standards and your goals are so high, you’re constantly terrified of failing.

The truth is, business success is unachievable without any risk. Creation and innovation are its key drivers, which is why you can’t allow the fear of rejection to affect your decisions. Tony Robbins says, “Your biggest problem is that you think you shouldn’t have any.” Entrepreneurship is all about ups and downs, and it’s only natural to leave some space for errors. Rather than emotional scarring, they are a chance for you to grow from your mistakes. Stay rational, but flexible in your ideals.

3. Perfectionists Are Often Crippled With Anxiety

The aforementioned list of “qualities that make a great leader” emphasizes the following personality traits as well: focus, patience, stoicism, open-mindedness, and decisiveness. Being detail-oriented, perfectionists tend to major in minor things, thus losing focus from what truly matters. They push their standards on others around them, which makes them demanding and impatient. As we’ve already seen, their fear of failure forbids them from being open-minded and decisive too. The pressure to be perfect is so unbearable that they eventually crack with anxiety; so much for the stoicism.

Nothing good ever comes out of it, really. Your business is half of your life, but hairsplitting will only make you hate it. Soon enough, the stress will pile up enough to bury all of your willpower and creativity. You need to nip it in the bud, which asks for a serious change of attitude. If perfectionism is deep down in your core and you can’t or won’t get rid of it, then do your best to separate emotions from work. Only that way will you be able to enjoy the process, rather than obsess over each consecutive step.

4. Perfectionists Are Not Easy To Deal With

The line between being self-critical and judgmental of others is extremely thin, and it’s a matter of time when your employees will start suffering from your perfectionism, too (if they don’t already). If self-oriented, those rigid standards you’ve set for yourself will block your view, making you inadequate to lead. Perfectionism can be other-oriented as well, in which case your expectations from employees will be downright unrealistic and impossible to meet.

As a business leader, you need to motivate them to grow and improve, while your inner critic is actually doing the opposite. Not only will your idealism make you unpopular and place your authority in question, but it might keep you closed off to different opinions and ideas as well. An inflexible mind hinders growth in intimate and professional life alike, which is why you need to put your perfectionism aside and stay open to others’ feedback regardless of how negative it might be.

Though constant attempts to achieve perfection may lead to frustration and utter lack of fulfilment, not all perfectionism is bad. It’s actually one of the strongest qualities of career-driven individuals, but only when kept under control. Remember that progress is not always about the details, just as well as collaboration isn’t about a single person’s goals. Be less harsh on yourself and others, and you’ll find it easier to take chances, make mistakes and, in time, grow into your fullest potential.

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Table of Content
1. Perfectionists Get Less Done 2. Perfectionists Rarely Take Risks 3. Perfectionists Are Often Crippled With Anxiety 4. Perfectionists Are Not Easy To Deal With

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