NextGen Know-How: practice healthy perfectionism

Strive to be excellent rather than perfect.

by. Laurie J. Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR

I was recently working with one of my executive clients on the area of perfectionism. She talked about the standards she places on herself, feeling inadequate if she makes one mistake, mulling over it for days as the uneasiness builds.

This is an area I know all too well. I’ve struggled with perfectionism throughout my life, and have often wasted a great deal of time and energy striving to create the perfect business plan, the perfect presentation or even the perfect gourmet dinner for friends.

So why do so many high-achieving, successful leaders beat themselves up over small, inconsequential mistakes? Why are we striving so hard to be perfect?

The truth is, people who are challenged by perfectionism usually don’t think they’re perfect. More often than not, they fear what people will think if they find out how imperfect they really are. Many perfectionists struggle with living up to their own internal standards and want to be accepted and appreciated by others.

While researching for this article, I found there are two types of perfectionists: adaptive and maladaptive. Adaptive perfectionists are more goal-oriented and conscientious, and adjust well within groups. This type of perfectionist scores high on leadership abilities and tends to be the kind of person who reaches for attainable goals and continuously seeks self-improvement. Adaptive perfectionism tends to be self-oriented, meaning they adhere to strict standards while maintaining strong motivation to attain perfection.

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