Being a High Achiever Instead of Being Perfect

By S. Renee Smith, Vivian Harte

If you’re a perfectionist, you’re probably thinking that if you let go of these attributes completely, you’ll do terrible work and lose whatever determination or discipline you have. However, now that you know that perfectionism serves no positive purpose and can actually damage your performance, you can commit yourself to making changes step by step. In this way, you can make speedy progress.

The first step onto a more beneficial path is to understand the difference between being a high achiever and devoting yourself to being perfect. They’re similar in some ways but different enough that the first is healthy and the second is not.

When you work at being a high achiever, you push yourself to do your very best, but you don’t try to be perfect or put yourself down if your work isn’t faultless. And you’re not anxious that something isn’t just right or that your best isn’t good enough. If it goes well, fine; if it doesn’t go well, you’ll work with it to make it better.

If you make mistakes, you don’t beat yourself up about them. Rather, you understand that making mistakes actually helps you learn. You realize that errors help you see where you need to make adjustments until you no longer make those mistakes. So you analyze them to see what you did incorrectly, strive not to duplicate those same mistakes in the future, and keep on going.

Perfectionists tend to worry that they haven’t done well enough even when things go well. As a high achiever, when you see you’ve done some things well, you pat yourself on the back and give yourself credit for doing a good job in those areas. You’re pleased with your accomplishments. You recognize that you’re improving as you do well more often and make fewer errors.

The table lists some areas in which you can compare being a high achiever to being a perfectionist.

High Achievers versus Perfectionists
Being a High Achiever Being a Perfectionist
You research material for your project, give it your best
effort, complete it in a timely fashion, and feel good about what
you prepared.
You research material for your project, work on it until
it’s perfect, check it over several times, turn it in late,
and worry that it’s not good enough.
You delegate work to your coworkers who have expertise and who
you feel will do a very good job.
You keep all your work to yourself because you can’t
trust anybody, and then you feel overwhelmed because you
can’t get everything done on time.
You acknowledge your achievements and feel proud of yourself
for accomplishing them.
Although you’ve achieved many things, you can’t
feel satisfaction because your work is never absolutely
perfect.
When you make mistakes in your work, you appreciate them
because you learn from them. You evaluate what happened and think
about how to avoid having this happen again.
When you make mistakes, you’re terribly ashamed, and you
try to cover them up so no one knows you made them.
You’re excited to undertake new things and learn new
skills because you know your value in the workplace will
improve.
You know there’s a big learning curve when you learn
something new and that mistakes are common, so you avoid putting
yourself in that position.