As I coach women, I am often struck by their desire to shine at everything –
– Excel in their job
– Have perfectly well-behaved and high-performing children with cool hobbies
– Spotlessly clean and beautiful home
– An active social life, and
– Looking well-groomed all the time
How much is there to do!! And how much of it is within their control!
This desire to shine all the time is called perfectionism. “Perfectionists” set high expectations from themselves and always feel that their work could be better. They focus on flaws and mistakes and ruminate about them for days. It reflects in their behavior towards others. They try to control everything, micromanage, and find it difficult to delegate.
Research shows that women have more perfectionist tendencies compared to men. Don’t get me wrong; perfectionism can generate intense efforts to achieve results. But it can also lead to exhaustion, guilt, and stress at every mistake or even the thought of a mistake.
It can also lead to women underselling themselves or holding back on aspirations and having low self-esteem when they can’t manage all the roles as well as they would like to. Perfectionists achieve less than they can because they spend too much time perfecting the output. Their desire to control all outcomes can strain relationships and increase stress and anxiety.
If you see yourself in the above narrative, here are some tips for you to ease the pressure –
- Be compassionate with yourself. Accept that nobody is perfect. Acknowledging that things can sometimes go wrong increases resilience. Mistakes are learning opportunities. If you never make mistakes, maybe you are always playing safe and staying in your comfort zone.
- Instead of wanting to be perfect at everything, choose what really matters to you and takes you towards the life you want and prioritize that. This will help you set reasonable goals you are inspired to achieve rather than those that weigh you down.
- You can keep refining something to no end. Be curious about what success looks like in the task at hand and set a benchmark for your work.
- Seek help. Create an eco-system that supports you. Train and empower your team so you can delegate. Build bridges with colleagues you can rely on.
- Be aware of the opportunity cost of perfectionism. What is it facilitating vs. what is it keeping you away from? Are you not able to raise your hand for the next project because you are dotting the i’s on this one? Are you not able to fit exercise into your routine because you do not want to ask your partner to help manage the morning chores?
- Have healthy self-esteem – Having goals you have no control over, e.g., external validation, is a recipe for disappointment and stress. Remember, people like you for being you and not for what you do or how well you do it.