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Is perfectionism getting you down?

Work-Related Stress

Perfectionism is a personality feature which can be present in one area of life, such as work, or can be more pervasive. While having high standards and striving to achieve is generally a good thing, some people take this to such an extreme that it leads to excessive self-criticism and has a negative impact on life.

Certain professions, such as engineering and science, attract perfectionists and also reinforce this personality trait. In working life perfectionism can be an asset as sometimes mistakes can cause great problems and even be life threatening.

However in many jobs today speed as well as accuracy is required and being a perfectionist can hold you back. For example, if you spend too much time on wording your emails perfectly, then you may fall behind with your work. This in turn can bring out more self-criticism. Striving to get everything perfect, and also done in time, can be exhausting.

If you are a perfectionist, you will have very high personal standards for yourself and be very self-critical. This makes it difficult for you to be happy with what you have done although it may be excellent in the eyes of others. Whatever you do never seems to be good enough and you shrug off the praise of others. For example, a student who comes top of the class may say,’The others were not really trying,’ or, ‘The exams were easy this year.’

Perfectionism can lead to fear of failure. This in turn can lead to avoidance of situations or tasks. This avoidance may indeed lead to failure and so you become even more critical of yourself and scared to try again. For example, if you put off taking part in an activity because you fear that you will not be as good as everyone else, you will not get the practice the others are getting and so they will indeed become better than you.

Perfectionism can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and physical and mental exhaustion. This in turn leads to poorer performance so it is a viscous circle.

If this sounds like you, perhaps Alicia Smith can help. Please email


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