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Be your best self at work by letting go of perfectionism

Tuesday July 26, 2022 ● By Daisy Hicks // Place Estate Agents

Have you ever hesitated to reveal something because it wasn’t presentation ready? Or spent a scary amount of time on a tiny detail that you’ve since looked back on and realised it didn’t matter? Same.  


That’s perfectionism at its finest… or worst. As well-meaning as the term sounds, perfectionism is far less than perfect. In fact, it can be a real hindrance in the workplace, preventing you from feeling accomplished and reaching your full potential. 

As a recovering perfectionist and aspiring 'good-enoughist,' here are my two cents on how to overcome perfectionism in the workplace and start doing your best work! 


What is perfectionism? 

At its core, perfectionism is having impossibly high standards and linking your self-worth to achieving these impossible standards. 

The best definition I have read was in Esteemed Researcher Brene Brown’s book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ where she says: 

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. It is the belief that is we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimise or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It is a shield we lug around thinking it will protect us when in fact it’s preventing us from taking flight.” 

Don’t get me wrong, there is such a thing as healthy striving for excellence – it’s that thing that pushes us to work harder, give something a go, to pick up the phone one more time and to push the boundaries, but impossibly high standards are not it! 


How Perfectionism Impacts People at Work 

Perfectionism can show itself in many ways at work, depending on who you are. Typically, people will procrastinate on tasks that they find challenging due to fear of failure. They may also avoid bringing up new ideas or trying something different.    

They will also spend far too much time on tiny details, which can lead to being unproductive. When you’re spending your workdays trying to avoid the shame of making a mistake you will take longer on a task than what is necessary, you’ll overthink and re-do work that is already of a high standard, and you are more likely to crack under pressure. 


How to Overcome Perfectionism at Work 

Overcoming perfectionism is not something you will do overnight, but here are some practical tips you can implement straight away to help start the process.


1. Embrace good enough

Not long after I joined the marketing team I was in a meeting when I heard our Head of People and HR, Amy, say “Don’t let perfect get in the way of progress.”  

Sounds simple, but it was one my ‘a-ha’ moments and one I am so grateful to have had in my early career, as it has saved me many times since then. A lot of the time, done is better than perfect, and collaborating or taking a break from something at this stage can often result in a better end-product! 

This is a small but might mind set change that will have you kicking goals in no time, trust me! 


2. Make sure you are in a workplace that creates psychological safety

At Place, we embrace all sorts of thinking with an approach that no idea is a bad idea. This environment provides phycological safety, meaning that team members feel comfortable to contribute innovative ideas and take creative and calculated risks.  

Perfectionists will go into overdrive if they’re in a workplace culture where small mistakes result in being shut down, harsh critique and public humiliation. 


3. Time blocking is your friend! 

It can be easy to fall into a trap of working on something until it is done (or perfect), no matter how long it takes. Before you know it your to do list has doubled and you’ve missed a bunch of other requests that need your attention.  

To break this habit, time block your day by estimating how long it will realistically take you to complete tasks throughout your day, and then set a timer for yourself to get things done. 

Another method is the 45-minute rule, which is where you knuckle down for 45 minutes of productive work and then take a 15-minute mental break.  


4. Separate yourself worth from your work  

This point hits hard but it is something that you’ll need to work on if you’re battling with perfectionism. Realising that your worth isn’t linked to how well you completed a project, how much praise you received and how error-les your emails are will set you free!  

To overcome perfectionism, you need to be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities to the experiences of shame, judgment, and blame; develop shame resilience and practice self-compassion. With consistent action, you’ll be able to move past perfectionism, trust me! 

If you happen to be working in a culture that makes it hard to overcome perfectionism than perhaps it’s time you make our Place, your Place?

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