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Being “Perfect” doesn’t lead to the Road of Acceptance

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

As a recovering “perfectionist”, I can honestly let you know that striving towards perfection will only lead down a path of unfulfillment. Nobody is perfect and chasing it will lead to exhaustion.

I was the first in my immediate family to attend college. As I look back at my twenties, I spent a majority of the time focused on building my resume, networks and image to uphold my dreams of career success.

However, I soon realized that after the awards and recognition; it created a false sense of security. I had built a career on the idea that I always needed to push and hustle and unfortunately being “perfect” was not something that could be sustained long-term.

After years of “wanting to be the best”, I realized it made me temporarily accepted with others and I found myself drained and unsure of my own motives and direction. I had started to live for others and had lost sight of my own career fulfillment. This led me to understand that chasing perfection, created a disengagement with my own desires and instead I was focusing on the needs of others.

Perfectionism among First-Generation

Being first-generation, we are conditioned to push ourselves to reach new limits with little social and cultural capital. We are often prized by our parents and families to be the first to go to college, the first to earn over 100k, the first to buy a home, etc. But being the first, means that we are to navigate new social and political environments that we don’t have the “blueprint” to. This leads to our default thinking of, “being the best, will lead to more opportunities and success, I can’t be anything less”.

But what happens when we are rewarded for “being the best”? Does that continue our beliefs that falling short of “the best” will also lead to less success?

I am sure you are able to see how having this mindset of perfection will lead to low self-esteem and instead of avoiding failure, you end up setting yourself up for worrying about when it “all falls down”.

How does “perfectionism” impact our sense of self?

University of Bath’s Thomas Curran and York St. John University’s Andrew Hill (2019) used a research method involving generational comparisons to explore social trends in perfectionism.

The British researchers believed that millennials could develop “a flawed and disordered sense of self . . . overwhelmed by pathological worry and a fear of negative social evaluation characterized by a focus on deficiencies, and sensitive to criticism and failure” (pp. 413-414).

How does perfectionism show up in first-generation college students and professionals?

Overwhelmed by Worry

  • Worried that you are doing something wrong

  • Worried about career stability

Fear of Negative Social Evaluation

  • Fearing Interviews

  • Always considering what other people will think

Focus on Deficiencies

  • Focusing on your flaws and what you could do better

  • Not applying for the job, because you don’t meet 100% of the qualifications

Sensitive to Criticism & Failure

  • Not speaking up, in fear that it won’t “sound right”

  • Not asking for a raise, since you are worried about the response

Moving towards an “Authentic” Lifestyle

The problem is when you work towards “perfection”, you are more in a reactive state as opposed to proactive. Your work and effort is based on others around you and it doesn’t have a strong foundation to build your own career success.

Being authentic, allows you to focus on your internal dialogue and staying true to who you are.

How to be authentic in your career goals?

Changing your mindset will take intentional focus to continually assess your needs and values as you set your goals and priorities.

I encourage you to work with me as a Career Confidence Coach to help you move forward with a J.E.F.A mindset and take control of your destiny. Here are some prompts that I explore with my coaching clients on:

  1. Know your “Why”

  2. What do you want to be remembered for?

  3. What brings you joy?

  4. If there were no barriers, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Focus on Assessing your Career Development

Understanding what your values are and what you want to be known for will help guide your career development.

In my Career Development Workbook, I have worksheets to help professionals develop their career with confidence with reflection on personal goals.


Wanting to be "perfect" leads to placing more focus on others and losing touch with your personal desires.

I challenge you to live authentically as opposed to “perfection”.

Move the focus from pleasing others, to putting yourself FIRST.


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