The Perils of Perfectionism That Nobody Tells You About And Ways To Overcome Them

As a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats. You're the CEO, the CFO, the marketing department, and the janitor all rolled into one. And you want to do it all perfectly. After all, your business is your baby. Getting a business off the ground takes considerable dedication and hard work. However, perfectionism is a recipe for disaster and might impede your success without realizing it. Here are some ways that being too much of a perfectionist can hurt your business: 

1. It can prevent you from taking risks, and you’ll miss out on opportunities.

If you're a perfectionist, you probably play it safe most of the time. After all, why take risks when there's a chance of failure? But in business, taking risks is essential if you want to succeed. You'll never stand out from the competition by playing it safe all the time— instead, embrace your inner risk-taker and be willing to try new things. Who knows what you might accomplish?

If you spend too much time agonizing over getting every detail right, you'll miss out on opportunities that could help your business grow. Sometimes, you need a leap of faith and go with your gut instinct. You'll have to learn when to move on from perfectionism and go for it. The only way to achieve greatness is by taking chances and putting yourself out there. So go ahead and take that risk—you might surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

How Perfectionism Shows Up:

  • You cannot finish a project because you are stuck on a minute detail that nobody else notices.
  • Constantly second-guessing yourself and your decisions.
  • Avoiding networking events or other opportunities for fear of being judged or making mistakes.
  • Fear of failure or judgment from others.
  • If you have staff or employees, you tend to micromanage.
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2. You might put unnecessary pressure on yourself, leading to burnout.

Being a perfectionist means constantly striving for the best possible outcome and never settling for anything less than perfect. While this drive is admirable, it's also exhausting. Even though you might think that being a perfectionist will keep you motivated and energized, it can lead to burnout.

When you're putting too much pressure on yourself to be perfect, your work performance will suffer, and eventually, you'll feel burnt out. Instead of pushing yourself relentlessly, learn to balance your expectations with self-compassion. Running a small business is hard enough—don't make it harder on yourself by holding yourself to unrealistic standards. Take a step back and breathe every once in a while, or you'll collapse under pressure.

3. You may become resistant to change or inaction.

Change is inevitable in business—customers' needs and wants evolve, and new technologies are constantly emerging. If you're resistant to change, you'll never be able to keep up with the latest trends. Instead of resisting change, embrace it and use it to your advantage. Embrace new technologies and stay ahead of the curve.

A perfectionist's worst nightmare is the perpetual cycle of striving for success without achieving it. This is what we call “perfection paralysis.” It's when you become so afraid to fail that you can't get anything done. Your business suffers as a result, and important deadlines are often missed.

I often see this with software engineers.  They spend so much time trying to write the perfect code or get every bug worked out that they never feel like they're done. The truth is, nobody's work is ever truly “perfect.” Is there bug-free code out there? Maybe. But the effort it takes to attain perfection is usually not worth the cost. Also, the client needed the build like yesterday! You'll never achieve perfection in every aspect. The sooner you accept this and move on, your business will improve.

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“Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi

4. It might stifle your creativity.

You'll only tap into your creative side if you’re focused on getting things right all the time. And in business, creativity is essential—it's what helps you come up with innovative solutions to problems and stand out from the rest.

If you notice that your perfectionism is stifling your creative juices, take a step back and try to let go of the little things. Focus on embracing new ideas and approaches, and don't be afraid to take risks. You’ll unlock your potential as an entrepreneur by focusing on being creative instead of perfect.

Transcending the fear of failure and getting into the right headspace to be creative can be hard, but it's not impossible. A simple change in how you view your work can make a difference. Think about how you can use your unique skills and talents to make a meaningful contribution instead of how you can be perfect. The key is to stop fixating on the small details and focus on what matters—helping your business succeed.

So don't be afraid to think outside the box and experiment with new ideas—you never know where they might lead.

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5. Unnecessary self-pressure often builds anxiety and depression.

Intertwined with the drive to achieve perfection is an unchecked and unhealthy level of self-criticism. In our culture, we tend to value someone who can “tough it out” and do without—who doesn't need help, comfort, or nurturing.

But how much of that self-criticism is not just about wanting things to be perfect but also how much it relates to how we feel about ourselves?  In other words, how much of it is about trying to prove that we're worth something?

This kind of self-criticism can build anxiety and depression and raise stress levels. It also might be a sign of unhealthy perfectionism—perfectionism that becomes so unrealistic that you feel like a failure, even when you attain your goal.

If you struggle with these negative feelings, it's important to seek help from a therapist or mental health professional. They can help you learn how to practice self-compassion, challenge your unrealistic expectations about how things “should” be, and develop healthier coping skills for dealing with stress.

Overcoming perfectionism doesn't have to be hard when you have the right support system. With a little care for yourself, you can begin to live a much fuller life both in business and at home.

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Overcoming The Perils of Perfectionism 

So, how can you break out of this cycle? The first step is to admit that there might be a problem. Start by being honest about how much your perfectionism affects your business positively and negatively.

I've had to learn this myself. I'm pretty hard on myself, and I've had to work at letting go of those perfectionistic standards. It's helped me to recognize how much energy I was spending on this self-criticism and how much it was holding me back.

If you're struggling with perfectionism and want to overcome it, you can do a few things.

One strategy is to notice when self-critical thoughts start-up and then practice reframing them (e.g., “This isn't the worst mistake; I've made bigger mistakes in the past and survived,” “I'm just having a bad day today; it's not reflective of how I am as a person,” etc.).

Another strategy is to focus on the process instead of the outcome—in other words, how you're accomplishing things instead of just how perfect they turn out. Sometimes, being too focused on the result causes us to get stuck in perfectionistic thinking and feel like a failure.

It can also be helpful to practice mindfulness—putting your attention on what's happening in the present moment and accepting things as they are. When you're focused on how things should be or how you wish they were, it can feel like you're constantly struggling against how things are. But when you focus on the present, you can start to find a sense of peace and acceptance in how things are. And that can help reduce your perfectionistic tendencies.

Another strategy is to set realistic goals for yourself rather than perfectionist ideals. Focus on small, incremental gains instead of pushing yourself to reach an unattainable ideal.

Finally, try to practice self-compassion and learn how to be kinder towards yourself. After all, trying your best is enough—there's no need to push yourself to the point of burnout or depression. Remember that your health is always more important than any business venture. Show yourself some grace, please.

Perfectionism is often lauded as a positive trait. After all, isn't it better to strive for perfection than to settle for mediocrity? There's no doubt that a perfectionist streak can be helpful in many aspects of life. But when it comes to entrepreneurship, perfectionism can be a significant hindrance.


Remember, nobody is perfect, and that's perfectly okay! By setting realistic standards for yourself, taking risks, and building meaningful connections with others, you'll be able to overcome the perils of perfectionism and achieve even more than you ever thought possible. Remember that no one on this earth is perfect, and it's okay to stumble occasionally. That's how we learn! Accepting yourself and allowing room for error will prevent feelings of discouragement or anger when falling short of expectations.



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