Tame your inner perfectionist without compromising professionalism

­­­­­­­­­­­­­You probably think having high standards is a sign you’re a dedicated professional. Sadly, it might be ruining your reputation. Sure, you’ve  been told that successful people have high standards. But here’s what you haven’t realised. Perfectionist thinking is just one sign of self-sabotage – and you’ll never shine professionally if you make it a habit.

What causes perfectionism?

Two thinking patterns cause you to get stuck in perfectionist mode. On one hand, you hold extremely HIGH expectations about the quality of work you should produce. On the other hand, you have unrealistically LOW expectations regarding the time you’ll need needed to complete tasks.  This creates a mindset that gradually destroys your confidence and distorts your self-concept.

When this happens, you get trapped in a cycle of starting early and leaving late. Why? Because you’re trying so hard to meet deadlines and deliver ‘above and beyond’. You tell yourself this won’t last forever, but that busy patch just drags on. This exhausts you and shuts down the executive functions of your brain. It becomes impossible to make decisions, trust your own judgement or solve problems effectively.

Here’s how to break free

You can break free of perfectionism by reprograming your beliefs. I recommend using Neuro Linguistic Programming tools to do this, because they work so quickly. I explain exactly how they work in my free e-book, Beat Imposter Syndrome.


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Step 1:  understand your brain

Stop focusing on getting everything right and start focusing on being in a peak performance state. You can’t deliver great results if you’re worn out  all the time. Exhaustion is a sign  you’re pushing against your brain’s natural rest and activity cycles. So, learn to flow with them. Remember that your brain works in cycles of around 90 minutes. Each cycle starts with a period of fast brainwave activity (when you feel alert and focused). This is followed by a phase  of slower brainwaves (which cause you to daydream or feel tired). Capitalise on this by making the most of

Step 2: enhance your Uptime states

Uptime is when your energy is high. It’s the best time to do things like complex thinking, problem-solving and writing. You can use NLP tools to trigger Uptime states. For example, anchoring (one of NLP’s best-known tools) is a simple way to access energetic states on demand. It’s one of the ten inspiring tools I cover in the Beat Imposter Syndrome e-book, in addition to all my NLP courses.

Step 3: make the most of your Downtime phases (don’t fight them)

You might find this counterintuitive, because our culture emphasises the importance of being ‘switched on’ all the time. In fact, it’s during your Downtime that you have access to the intelligence of your unconscious mind. That intelligence can help you beat perfectionism, so don’t feel guilty or lazy because you’re not working hard all the time.

Instead, make the most of your relaxed, dreamy states using Ericksonian hypnosis – otherwise known as trance induction.  This age-old practice is an effective and rapid way to access your unconscious mind, so you can create inner change quickly

Most importantly, remember that YOU are in charge of what you think. To beat perfectionism,  challenge yourself to be excellent, but not perfect. Focus on creating a balanced mindset that recognises the importance of rest and downtime as well as hard work.

This article was created by Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a leadership trainer and success coach. Her mission is inspiring talented people to become leaders who make a difference.  Since discovering her passion for training and development, Eleanor has trained more than 60,000 people. She delivers face-to-face workshops for corporates, online masterclasses for leaders and Positive Psychology retreats for trainers, HR practitioners and leaders.