I recently had to interview for a new job. I really don’t like having job interviews. So I tried to prepare for the awkward questions I was going to be asked. “Why do you think you would be a great fit for our company?” “What are your top three strengths?” “What are your top three weaknesses?”
I really don’t like the last question. Everyone has weaknesses, but do you really want to give your future boss reasons not to hire you? My solution was to google for good ways to answer this question. I found a “List of Weaknesses: 10 Things To Say in an Interview.” The first item on this list was “I focus too much on details.” I googled some more, and the general consensus was that the best weakness to have was to be perfectionistic.
That put me in a weird spot. I had planned to tell my future boss that being perfectionistic is one of my top three strengths. So, is my perfectionism good for me and my career or not?
Perfectionism is neither and both. Perfectionism is a strong desire to do something well. A moderate level of perfectionism can help stay focused on a task, be motivated and detail-oriented. Psychologists sometimes refer to this type of perfectionism as “functional perfectionism.”
However, perfectionism can also be a risk factor for depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. We can take the desire to do a good job a step too far. We can set our standards so high that they become unattainable. We can be so detail-oriented that even after working on a project through the whole night, we will find some minor flaws and be utterly disappointed in ourselves. Striving for true perfection will ultimately lead to disappointment and self-doubts. It can lead to thinking that we can never do things good enough.
It can sometimes be hard to judge whether our perfectionism is helping us or whether it is too much and hindering us. Do you feel under constant pressure? Are you disappointed even when you pass tests? Do you work on projects longer than your colleagues? Here are some tips on how to overcome unhealthy perfectionism.
1. Make a Cost-Benefit Analysis
Make a list of the ways your perfectionistic traits make you more effective and of all the ways perfectionism is hurting you.
2. Become Aware of your tendencies
A good way to become more aware of how pervasive your perfectionism is to record your perfectionistic thoughts as they pop in your head. Use a memo on your phone, or write it in your journal at night.
3. Focus on the Positive
If you notice something imperfect, look for five other qualities that you do like. This can balance out your critical focus.
4. Take Baby Steps
Set realistic and small goals for yourself. This will help you reach your goals and you can enjoy many more ‘successes’ in the process
5. Learn to Handle Criticisms
Criticism can often feel like an attack. However, constructive criticism can give you important clues on how to improve your performance, making your less-than-perfect performances into useful stepping stones that lead to excellence.
Talking to a psychologist can further help you understand your perfectionism better and reduce unhealthy levels of perfectionism.
List of Weaknesses: 10 Things To Say in an Interview. Indeed.com. (2021). Retrieved 19 June 2021, from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/interviewing/list-of-example-weaknesses-for-interviewing.