Perfectionism Is Success’s Worst Enemy: Try These 3 Hacks To Move Past It


We’ve all heard the old adage, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” But there’s a difference between doing something well and doing something perfectly. For anyone who has ever experienced the paralysis that accompanies perfectionism, you already know how debilitating it can be. But for those people who still hold dear the notion that perfectionism is something to aspire to, we’ve got some news.

The pursuit of perfect isn’t just bad for you, it’s bad for business.

You might think that exceptional entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg got where they are by demanding their work be impeccable. But you’d be wrong. Facebook has a sign that hangs in their headquarters, which reads, “Done is better than Perfect.”

Done is better than Perfect.

Perfectionism = Procrastination

“Oh my Gosh, my website needs more work. There’s no way I can launch it until I get it just right!” Most of us, at some point, feared the idea of putting something out into the world before we feel it’s ready.
But often, the fear of making a public mistake keeps a person from ever completing the project — or even starting it. One way to avoid feeling incompetent is by never finishing your work, thereby never having to show it to anyone. Don’t let the fear of a failure keep you from getting the job done.

Perfectionism can ruin your professional relationships.

Have you ever been around a friend who called herself an idiot for “only” getting a 90 on an exam — when you scored an 80? Bringing that attitude into the office can hamper your relationships with colleagues. “If she thinks her work performance is bad, what must she think of me? She’s probably judging me,” co-workers might think.

No matter what field you’re in, the relationships you cultivate along the way will have an effect on your trajectory. If you don’t show respect for your own work, people are likely to believe you don’t respect theirs. And that’s going to sabotage potentially beneficial partnerships.

Perfectionism prevents you from challenging yourself.

Sounds odd, right? Surely if you’re trying to overachieve, you’re going to be working your hardest. But perfectionists seek out situations that will demonstrate to others how good they are. This means they’re less likely to take on experiences that are foreign to them.

By staying within their “safety zone,” perfectionists limit their growth. Gaining new skills means starting at the bottom and learning from your mistakes. If you’re too scared to make mistakes, you won’t be able to grow.

Now that we’ve identified how perfectionism can handicap a person, how does one learn to just let go?

Humans are surprisingly bad at assessing risk. We have the tendency to see disaster even if there is little evidence that it will occur.

You can become more realistic about the consequences of making mistakes by imagining what they might be and writing them down. What will happen if your company’s website doesn’t have a perfectly worded mission statement?

Fear says, “We’ll never get an investor because they’ll think we’re inept.” Logic (and research) says online users don’t read text much at all (only about 20% of the words). A potential investor or partner is more likely to be dubious of a company with no website than one whose mission statement could use a little brush-up.

Overcoming perfectionism boils down to overcoming fear. Looking at the situation from someone else’s point of view helps defeat irrational emotions. After all, you’re likely more understanding of friends’ mistakes than you are your own.

So the next time you find yourself sweating over finding the perfect shade of violet for your presentation’s pie chart, take a step back and say it out loud with us: “I don’t need it to be perfect. I just want it to be really damn good.”