Why Perfection Paralysis Won’t Help You Get Ahead

(Source: www.forbes.com)

Most of us have had that feeling – unsure of exactly what to do next and so we just stop, like a deer caught in headlights. We find ourselves suffering from perfection paralysis, stuck in a seemingly endless cycle chasing the illusory “p” word. Perfection is so utterly blinding (much like those headlights to a deer) that it causes even the most ambitious and hardworking individuals to become frozen with fear. That fear, the fear of not being, doing or feeling good enough eventually takes a toll; and most of the time women pay a much higher price than men. Toss in motherhood, and well, we can all but resign ourselves to a life of endless futility and frustration.  

While perfection paralysis is something many people deal with at every stage of their careers, working mothers may find themselves even more affected as they are dealing with perfectionism at work and as a mom. There is an idea in our country that to be a good employee you have to be accessible around the clock, able to travel or change plans at a moments notice. And to be a good mom, you must be available to your children 24/7 and gracefully handle the multitude of requests, tasks, and needs of your kids all while humming nursery rhymes and baking cookies.  

Working mothers have to get out of our own way. Somewhere along the line women are socialized to be all things to all people at all times. Given our inclination to nurture and be in service to others, it’s no surprise that most women thrive off of multitasking and being at the top of our game. What happens all too often is women continue to raise the bar and we demand that we do our best, always. Before we know it, perfection is the goal and reaching it is impossible.  

According to authors Joan C. Williams and Rachel Dempsey, working mothers, are plagued by Prove-It-Again syndrome at the office, adding insult to (our sometimes self-induced) injury.   In their research, they found working mothers are repeatedly forced to prove their worth and competency to their colleagues and employers . This syndrome is apparent most often when women return to the office after maternity leave. Working moms continue to strive for perfectionism and fear letting those around them down. Unfortunately, the pressure of being the perfect mom and employee mounts during this crucial time and eventually leads to burnout.

Perfection is a time suck. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to be perfect. To err is human. The more we accept that fact, the healthier and happier our lives will be. Here are three ways to lessen the desire for perfection and amplify your efficiency at home and the office:

  1. Let Go.  Giving up the notion of perfectionism and finding ways to be successful on your own terms is key to feeling confident in your decisions. Social media projects an altered and somewhat false sense of someone else’s reality — unplug from the source and keep it moving. While some professional and personal moments in life demand an exceptional performance, that doesn’t equate to perfection. Being good is good enough. And like Sheryl Sandberg insists “Done is better than perfect.”
  2. Evaluate the return on time (R.O.T.).  

    Consider your R.O.T. at work. Will taking the time to tweak a project over a few hours really be worth the return on your time? Or is it “good enough?” We often need to socialize our work, iterate with others and then incorporate feedback well before finalizing, so monitoring your R.O.T. is especially helpful in early drafts. And just might get you out of the office in time for story time or baseball practice with your kids.

  3. Prioritize your tasks. 

    Working mothers are phenomenal multitaskers. We pivot on a dime and effortlessly move from one task to another. We focus our attention on the task at hand and make the most of the time constraints. If you know you have to pick up your child from daycare at 5:30 pm, it forces you to structure your day accordingly and not waste any time.

Being perfect shouldn’t be worn like a badge of honor. The only battle you’re winning is the one that’s holding you back. Perfection is the futile pursuit of an unattainable goal. Repeat after me: Perfection is the futile pursuit of an unattainable goal. If you aim for perfection, then you’ve failed before you’ve even started. You owe yourself more than that.

More Info: www.forbes.com

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