Perfectionism: A Strength and Weakness

Danielle Beatty
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Perhaps on a job interview you’ve been asked, “What is your biggest weakness?”

Some may say, “I’m a perfectionist.”

They may hope this conveys the idea that they put everything into what they do and want it to be just right, but is that really a bad thing?

Others may say it with all sincerity after experiencing weaknesses that come from being a perfectionist.

Perfectionism is a set of self-defeating thought patterns that push a person to achieve unrealistic goals.

Perfectionists aren’t focused on things being perfect. Rather, they are consumed with not failing. This obsession leads them to high almost unrealistic standards. The mindset can result in things like difficulty making decisions, avoiding challenges to avoid failure, applying high standards to others and, the overthinking of past situations in a negative tone.

According to MindTools, there are two types of perfectionists: maladaptive and adaptive. 

Maladaptive perfectionists are unable to respond to life’s stresses. In an attempt to cope, they may become controlling. In the work place, this looks like procrastinating, not celebrating success, and trying to control co-workers. In life, this can result in physical and psychological conditions like eating disorders, depression, migraines, anxiety, and burnout.

Adaptive perfectionists, on the other hand, still feel life’s stresses and see it through a perfectionistic mindset. Yet, they are able to respond to changes in their environment. They take on new challenges seeing them as an opportunity for growth. They learn from and embrace failures to create the most beautiful things.

Being a perfectionist may be a weakness. Perhaps the mindset keeps someone from getting things done on time or developing relationships with their co-workers. Maybe it’s a strength. Perhaps someone has learned how to adapt and now responds to failure as an opportunity for growth. Whether framed as a strength or a weakness, perfectionism makes someone stand out, sets a new standard, and propels people to do things the right way.

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  • Patrick Shea
    Patrick Shea

    I strive for perfection is more condusive to what i mean to say in an interview when asked my greatest weakness, such high expectations sometimes limits the creative process.

  • Candice M.
    Candice M.

    I don't mean to be argumentative but I disagree with you. Aiming high when setting goals is one thing, but perfectionism in and of itself is pathological. ALWAYS. I think the general overall misconception about perfectionism is that it means you deliver high quality workmanship. I remember the first time i realized how wrong i was, when i heard somebody say "perfectionism doesn't mean you're perfect, it means things need to be perfect FOR YOU." This was very well worded and effective in conveying the message to me.

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