Perfectionism and the Small Business Owner

I occasionally refer to myself as a “recovering perfectionist.” When I started my own consulting business, Dawning Consults LLC, I realized how quickly I could relapse. There are so many details involved with starting up. I was inundated with lists: wish lists, price lists, contact lists, and the ever-dreaded to-do lists.

All that stress and hope pushed me to want everything to be just perfect.

Research has indicated that perfectionism can paralyze. It is rooted in constant comparisons to an unachievable ideal. It can exhaust you. Constant concern with perfection can express and/or lead to emotional and social disorders, including depression, anxiety, and worse*. roadsign_progressbeyondperfectionismAccording to Adderholdt-Elliot, “In the workplace, perfectionism is often marked by low productivity as individuals lose time and energy on small irrelevant details of larger projects or mundane daily activities.” 

Recovering from perfectionism over the years has meant I had to learn to feel those emotions and still make the wise decisions required to get the job done. A “perfect” example is this blog post — I spent weeks writing and researching… and writing and editing… and writing and re-writing… When I started the blog, I recognized I had dipped a toe back into the dangerous waters of covering everything. Weeks later, I still hadn’t sent it to my first-readers for editing, and I realized I was hip-deep in a perfectionist spiral.

Getting it right is important. Getting it perfect is a road block.

Having high standards for yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you’re caught up in perfectionism, but if you have trouble seeing an end point, or find yourself refining the same set of details multiple times, it could be a warning sign. Take a look at the project goal and ask yourself (or a friend or mentor) if what you have is enough to fulfill that original vision. image_roadsigntoperfection_emo-_color-greenI tell my clients, “When you see that sign on the road, STOP. Notice where you are and take the shortest route to your end goal.”

I needed to heed my own advice.

I remembered why I started down this road, took a breath, and published my website in a simple format that got my major points across. A couple weeks later, I posted my first blog — this blog. It’s not perfect. It’s posted. Thank goodness.

Take a moment to share some ways you recognize when you’re skidding into perfectionism. How long has it taken you to notice?
This time it took me a couple of weeks to realize it was time to stop, refocus, and deliver… in the past it’s taken much longer. I’d love to hear about your progress toward (oops!) away from perfection.


* I can’t adequately describe or even summarize the vast amount of research on the psychology of perfectionism in this blog post, but I think the wikipedia site content and references offer a good start if you’re interested in learning more.