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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Balancing Perfectionism with Self-Compassion in your Career

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if you are a perfectionist, you may struggle with shame, guilt, and constant discomfort in your career. The insecurity and fear of losing a job or something important in your career may generate an excessive search for perfection. 

No matter how good you are at your job, you will make mistakes from time to time. It is inevitable—because of this, learning to balance perfectionism with self-compassion is an important skill to learn to enjoy a meaningful career.

Perfectionism Perspective

If your goal is to do everything perfectly and be unfireable, you will be disappointed in nearly everything you do because things so rarely go perfectly according to plan. 

If you hold perfection as the core goal of your job, relationship, or identity, you will have no choice but to view yourself as a failure in these areas when things go wrong. This simply is not sustainable. 

However, this does not mean that you have to abandon the pursuit of excellence in your life. The “unfireable label”. You do not have to adopt “good enough” as your new motto. Instead, learn to intertwine self-compassion with perfectionism. 

Consider aiming for “realistic perfection” – strive to do things perfectly while still understanding and accepting the harsh reality that most things in life cannot and will not turn out perfectly. 

Take comfort in knowing that while it may not be possible to achieve perfection in all aspects of life, we can certainly be perfect in at least some things. Adjust your focus to getting as close to perfection as possible and exercising self-compassion when you fall short.

You may be using perfectionism as a shield from feelings of vulnerability. You may think that if you make a mistake, the company may let you go. Abandoning protection requires exposing your weaknesses. 

You may notice that the areas where you struggle the most to be vulnerable are the areas where you seek perfection the most. For many, it is challenging to be susceptible in professional relationships where earning approval and acceptance can be so important.

Compensating with perfectionism is a common coping strategy to feel more empowered and assured in these situations. And you become stressed and stressful to others to work with.

Self-Compassion Perspective

Self-compassion is made up of mindfulness, kindness towards yourself, and common humanity. 

Imagine you were to misspell someone’s name in an email. If you are a perfectionist not in touch with your sense of self-compassion, this mistake is likely to bring about shame and guilt and may perhaps cause you to fixate on your own perceived inadequacies. While this mistake is somewhat embarrassing, it happens to everyone, and in reality, is relatively minor when correctly put in perspective. 

Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot – would you fixate on a person misspelling your name? Would it bother you for very long at all? Thinking through mistakes logically through a lens of common humanity and then showing kindness and compassion for yourself is the only way to put these minor mistakes in the past where they belong and move forward in your career.

  While perfectionism needs to be appropriately balanced, it is not a “dirty word” or necessarily something to be avoided. There are careers and scenarios in life where we cannot afford to be striving only for “good enough.” 

It must be mentioned again that mistakes are still going to be made from time to time. There is a right and a wrong way to deal with errors, and the right way requires self-compassion. 

If and when you make a mistake, do not cover it up, but instead, begin working on a solution to present to your superior or client. The important thing is not to protect yourself from being fired but to protect your employability and become prepared to be rehireable.

This is no time or place for perfectionism and shame to creep in, clouding judgment and making the problem even worse.

Bottom Line

Being a perfectionist for 100 percent of the day is sure to bring negative consequences for your mental health and lead to burnout. 

While striving for perfection is admirable, sometimes it is enough simply to show up. To grow into a meaningful, comfortable, and sustainable role in your career, set your mind towards learning to balance perfectionism with self-compassion.

This article makes a case for balancing self-compassion with perfectionism to avoid burnout and grow into a meaningful and sustainable role in your career.


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