Don't juggle perfectionism and burn-out


Once perfectionists have achieved perfection, they believe they are worthy of love and happiness. This kind of faulty thinking becomes a key driver for burn-out.

Take Perfectionist Pat, for example. Pat is doing a great job. Yet s/he believes that this is not enough and must go the extra mile (or 1000).

Feeling capable, Pat takes on more responsibilities, while asking for less and less help. Pat is trying to prove to the world – and him/herself – that s/he is perfect. But once s/he’s burnt all of Pat’s resources (there is just not enough time to replenish through nourishment, rest, and play), the balls start to drop. This is when perfectionism becomes shame.

Pat starts believing his worst nightmare: “I am not good enough/perfect”. Perfectionist Pat becomes Resilient Pat who recovers from the exhaustion and stubbornly starts the cycle again. This time s/he is determined to work smarter, be more time efficient – but again overcompensates.

Pat is still chasing the unattainable goal of perfection and unrealistic expectations. The balls eventually drop (as they do for everyone under these conditions) and Pat’s limiting belief again becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The greatest resistance to letting go of perfectionism is the fear of the ordinary, becoming complacent and dropping standards.

But is that true? As Pat experienced, it is perfectionism that leads to “dropping of balls” and sloppy work, not the other way around.

Taking care of yourself while doing a good job, is a longer term more sustainable way to keep up standards, with a less frenetic, fear-driven edge.

-  Kerstin Waddell is a Martha Beck certified life coach based in Cape Town, South Africa. Visit her website at

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