Entrepreneurism: The Harmful Effects Of The Pursuit Of Perfectionism

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Perfectionism is a blessing and a curse if you ask me.

A perfectionist, by definition, is someone who refuses to accept less-than-perfect results. We hold everyone to our own, much-higher-than-status-quo standards.

And while wanting things to be perfect isn’t the worst thing you can want, it can be extremely harmful in business situations.

Here’s my story of the pursuit of perfectionism and how it did more harm than good (and how to stop perfectionism from harming you and your business decisions).


The Pursuit Of Perfectionism

I have been a perfectionist since my mid-twenties. I’m not sure why or how the change happened, but I noticed that I was pushing myself harder and harder to accomplish career and life goals.

There are benefits to perfectionism:

  • Extreme attention to detail
  • Ability to spot mistakes and gaps easily
  • High standards (personally and of others)
  • Work is always a priority

And yet, these same benefits can turn into absolute monstrous downfalls.

While perfectionists aren’t the most horrible people you’ll come up against in the working world, it isn’t fun to constantly compete with your neurotic cohorts.

“Perfectionists are their own devils.” ~ Jack KirbyClick To Tweet

Perfect Can Be Poisonous

A typical week for me includes …

  • Scouring the house for cleanliness (I feel out of control if things aren’t tidy and in their place at all times)
  • Cooking elaborate dinners for my husband (because I want to be the perfect wife)
  • Spending, on average, an hour and a half to get ready (my hair, makeup, and clothes are never quite right)
  • Obsessing about work even over the weekends or when “out of the office”; feeling guilty for any time off or away from work
  • Suffering from insomnia night after night as I ruminate over my list of “to dos” (studies show perfectionism may serve as a predisposing factor for the development of persistent insomnia)

I want to do it all: be the Martha Stewart of my home, The Sheryl Sandberg of my business, and June Cleaver for my husband.

It’s exhausting. I have major anxiety about nearly every aspect of my life because juggling it all leaves me with paralyzing fear that I’ll fail somewhere (if not everywhere).

I’m not telling you this for pity, but so that you can understand the self-blame and criticism that comes along with the pursuit of perfectionism.

Perfectionists often blame themselves myself for others’ issues, even though zero fault lies with them.

I recently found myself consumed over a personnel issue at B Squared … even with the team, my family, and my husband telling me I was being ridiculous. I had failed and that failure tormented me for months.

The pursuit of perfectionism is a tiring compulsion that often leads to failure instead of success.Click To Tweet

How To Overcome Perfectionism In Business

Of course, entrepreneurs want to strive to be perfect, or close to it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t set high standards and lofty goals.

But the relentless pursuit of perfectionism is really just an attempt to avoid all:

  • Rejection
  • Criticism
  • Failures

And your business can’t continue to grow without those things.

Here’s how I’m trying to manage my inner perfectionist at work (home is another post altogether!)

  1. Setting realistic goals (for your teammates and yourself). I find super specific goals are better than vague ones (example: close two new clients this month).
  2. Giving our team the freedom to make mistakes. While I may be hard on myself, doing that to our team can impede innovation.
  3. Find someone you trust and delegate. Manage your involvement according to gaps or lapses (rather than “just checking in”).
  4. Delivering constructive criticism as a conversation, not a list of what went wrong.
  5. When someone produces exceptional work, give them public praise (and be specific about what they did that was so amazing!).
  6. Giving myself (or learning how to give yourself) self-compassion.
Use these 6 tips to overcome perfectionism at work or as an entrepreneur.Click To Tweet

Care To Confess?

Are you, or have you worked with, a perfectionist? How did the pursuit of perfectionism help or hurt your business? I’m so curious — please let me know in the comments section below!


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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
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Category: Business, Business 101
Tags: entrepreneurism, entrepreneurship, perfectionism, perfectionist, perfectionists
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2 Comments. Leave new

  • A perfectionist is a valid and necessary kind of person who earns the right to demand from others what is good for themselves. Self compassion is a must and making mistakes helps to forgive others. Once you admit being a perfectionist, you use your perfectionism to keep it under control and that involves compassion inwards and outwards. Great post, amiga. All the dedication and hard work pays off at some point.


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