In my previous role, I used to do a lot of interviewing potential members of staff. One question I avoided asking was ‘what would you say is your greatest weakness?’ as I never found the candidates’ answers very enlightening. It’s one of those questions which people prepare for, and it’s often answered ‘perfectionism’ as they seem to consider that a ‘good’ weakness.
There is nothing wrong with high standards. High standards can keep us focussed and disciplined. They can motivate us to be more and to achieve more. Life is a process of continuous development and improvement and high standards contribute to that process.
However, there is a phenomenon known as ‘maladaptive perfectionism’ – this is when those high standards stop acting as a carrot to motivate and start to act as a stick with which to beat ourselves. In our dynamic society, we can feel under pressure to achieve instant results: a quick internet search reveals ways in which we can learn to drive in a week; learn a new language in a week; learn to ride in a week; learn to code in a week … the list goes on and on.
The potential problem with this is that it doesn’t always work. A maladaptive perfectionist will then feel like a failure, the result of which is a fear of starting anything new for fear of failing again.
Writer Margaret Atwood said: ‘If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word’ and it seems to me that we could all benefit from taking a similar approach to new skills and experiences.
Today’s pebble for your thoughts: if you stopped waiting to be perfect, what would you start doing?
What do you think?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
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