July 08, 2024 4 min read

News Flash

The marketing industry is highly competitive. Students know that their future career success could depend on their ability to stand out from the crowd. This competitive atmosphere can drive perfectionist tendencies as students strive to ensure every project, presentation, or piece of work is perfect to gain a competitive edge.  Knowing what you want to accomplish and how is a great place to start. Forget burning the candle at both ends – you’ll incinerate it from the centre as the wax melts and the candle snaps in two. Everything seems to move effortlessly, like ripples floating down a stream, until you get close to the end. That’s when wooden logs and debris block the ripples, clog the stream and keep your ideas floating helplessly stranded. If you start strong but struggle to finish every project – news flash, you might suffer from perfectionism. 


What’s Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is like possessing the foresight to see the big picture but procrastinating because the work might not be perfect. According to Healthline, perfectionism causes people to set impossibly high standards. In a perfectionist’s eyes, their work is never good enough, so they refine, edit and redo sections repeatedly to meet their incredibly high standards. A perfectionist may have a singular creative vision, but they get stuck focusing on perfecting minor details, and in the end, their vision is in limbo.


Traits of a Perfectionist

An article by Elizabeth Scott, PhD, called Perfectionism: 10 Signs of Perfectionist Traits, says perfectionists have overly critical self-evaluations. In other words, perfectionists are extremely hard on themselves. Simply completing the task isn’t good enough – it must be perfect for them to be satisfied. According to the article mentioned above, here are 7 of the 10 key characteristics of perfectionists as described in the article:

1. All-or-nothing thinking: Success for a perfectionist is unsustainable because they can’t accept anything less than perfect.

2. Being highly critical: Perfectionists don’t appreciate success the way they should. They are so critical of themselves and others that they focus on mistakes instead of taking pride in the final product.

3. Feeling pushed by fear: Instead of trying to meet and surpass a challenge, the perfectionist is motivated by the fear of producing anything less than perfect.

4. Having Unrealistic Standards: Perfectionists tend to set unattainable goals and reject success not because they’re afraid of the spotlight but because they’re scared to fail.

5. Focusing only on results: Perfectionists have a one-track mind. They can’t enjoy the successes they achieve along the journey while focused on trying to avoid failure and accomplish their task flawlessly.

6. Feeling depressed by unmet goals: When their goals aren’t met, they struggle to move on.

7. Fear of failure: For perfectionists, fear isn’t a motivator as the possibility of failure prevents them from starting something new.

What Can You Do?

Being a perfectionist comes with challenges. You’re hard on yourself and others. Perfectionists are like high achievers, but the difference is that high achievers can appreciate the challenges they overcome on the journey. In contrast, a perfectionist is only fixated on the result.

What if you want to change and learn to appreciate all those wins that led to completing the task? According to an article written by Rebecca Knight from the Harvard Business Review, you can manage your perfectionism. In the article, Rebecca says perfectionists who want to change can do so by rechanneling one of their strengths instead of aiming for a lower goal. Here are 4 of Rebecca’s 6 ideas for relinquishing the perfectionist mindset:

1. See the big picture: Ask yourself if you’re being productive and using your time wisely. Don’t spend more time on a project than necessary.

2. Adjust your standards: Perfectionists must recognize that every task doesn’t need to be perfect, but they all must be completed. If you’re unsure if it’s finished, why not ask a fellow student or mentor what they think? They might confirm that the work’s done – and you can move on to something else just as important, if not more.

3. Create a checklist: If you create a checklist, you can check off what you’ve completed as you go. This tactic will make dwelling on perfection redundant because, according to the list, the task is already complete.

4. Break the cycle of rumination: Perfectionists often ruminate – which means constantly thinking about something without taking the next step to solve the problem. The article mentions that people who ruminate generally don’t forgive themselves for their mistakes or failures. For tips on handling rumination, read the full article here.

Overcoming Perfectionism

Whether you’re in your first or last semester or looking for your first position in your field, there’s a lot of competition. You will compete with strangers, friends, and colleagues for limited roles in the real world. You may believe every project you put your name on must be flawless if you’re ever going to stand out, but that kind of thinking is the problem. As a species, we are flawed. Nothing we ever do will be perfect – so don’t beat yourself up. Put the work in to make it shine as brightly as you can – and then stop editing and appreciate it for what it is. In the real world, you’ll have to set it aside, start something new and do it all over again.

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