Dr. Gordon Parker’s recent book discusses how perfectionists are more susceptible to burnout than others.
Symptoms of burnout typically include feelings of exhaustion, ineffectiveness, and lack of accomplishment. There’s also an increase in cynicism and mental distance from one’s job.
Dr. Gordon Parker is a professor of psychiatry at the University of New South Wales in Australia. In Burnout: A Guide to Identifying Burnout and Pathways to Recovery, along with Gabriela Tavella and Kerrie Eyers, he talks about how being a perfectionist makes you more likely to experience burnout.
He says “The individual brings predisposing behavioral factors to the table, and then a stressful event or events brings on a first episode,” adding that “There are certain people—particularly those who are disposed to being very reliable and dutiful—who are at very high risk of developing burnout.”
Dr. Parker characterizes perfectionists as people who do things as well as possible, have high standards for themselves, push themselves to be the best, and commit themselves to most of the things they do.
He further describes them as people who are “Reliable, dependent, and diligent. They work long hours. If they’re told to take a break, they say no, I’ve got more work to do.” The more they pour themselves into their work, the more they push themselves towards burnout.
Perfectionists tend to magnify any mistakes they make, succumbing to catastrophic thinking. This leads to anxiety, especially towards work. They may become paralyzed, afraid to make more mistakes, so work ends up getting turned in late or even not done at all.
“Ditch ruminations about past events, doubts, and self-recriminations,” Dr. Parker writes in his book. He advises to try containing this rumination to a specific amount of time per day, like 20 minutes, for example.
Admitting mistakes to themselves and to other people allows perfectionists to build their emotional immune system.
Parker also advises them to show grace and forgiveness towards others whenever someone else commits an error. This is so that whenever the perfectionist makes a mistake, they’ll remember how they should treat themselves as well.
It’s difficult to rid oneself of perfectionism and burnout completely. Being a perfectionist isn’t even inherently a bad thing. But being able to disconnect the two will likely make life easier and healthier for them.
Banner photo via Pexels by Nataliya Vaitkevich.