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In a new analysis of 43 psychology studies done in the last two decades on the link between perfectionism and burnout, British researchers have drilled down on how the trait affects us at work and play.
The good: That sense of accomplishment that comes from setting high standards and working toward them can be invigorating.
The not-so-good: When perfectionists start to "constantly worry about making mistakes, letting others down, or not measuring up to their own impossibly high standards," lead researcher Andrew Hill, an associate professor of sport psychology at York St. John University in England, said in a press release. The study was published online in the Personality and Social Psychology Review.
This worry can contribute to serious health problems including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, fatigue and even dying at a younger age. The stress can also cause career burnout "when people become cynical and stop caring," Hill said. The biggest risk of burnout is actually in the workplace, he said, because unlike school and organized sports, an outstanding performance at the office may not be recognized or rewarded.
Curb your perfectionism
How to check your perfectionistic tendencies? The study suggests four places to start.
1. Challenge yourself to set realistic goals that are within your grasp. (You can always set new ones after you’ve accomplished them.)
2. Accept failure as a learning opportunity.
3. Forgive yourself when you fail.
4. If you set the tone in your workplace, emphasize diligence, flexibility and perseverance instead of perfection as the criteria of success. (If not, you may need to ponder a career move.)
Read on about how to manage perfectionism in children and how to avoid perfectionist pitfalls throughout the year.