I was reminded of this topic today as I was re-watching Brene Brown’s TED Talk – “Listening to Shame”. A lot of people seem to think that there is not a lot of difference between perfectionists and those that want to achieve a lot in life. While there is no doubt a lot of similarities, I do believe that they are different personality traits.
For most people, from early on in high school it is all about being perfect or not making mistakes. This is where perfectionism originates from. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you are perfect doing it. Obviously there is problems with this head space. For starters, we are human beings and nobody is perfect.
Need for achievement is more concerned with doing a lot of things with your life. Oftentimes entrepreneurs will fall into this category. There is constant anxiety about not doing enough with one’s life or comparing yourself to others and coming up short. There is less of an emphasis on doing things perfect and more of a focus on doing a lot of things. Allain De Botton in his book “Status Anxiety” addresses this point. As society has become more and more prosperous we are increasingly thinking that we need to do more with our lives and this causes a status anxiety that can never completely go away because it is a moving target. Once you reach your status goal you move onto the next one or you compare yourself to another group of people.
For a healthy society both of these traits need to be moderated. A healthy mix of perfectionism and need for achievement is required. I do subscribe to Allain De Botton’s view that a status anxiety exists in modern day society. For women it is around looks and for men it is around career. From the career perspective it is no longer enough to get yourself a good profession or job and to own your own home. Now you need to start your own business, create the next Facebook, bet your life savings on 1,2, 4 houses – all by the time you are 30.
Both of these conditions are absolutely crippling Gen Y’s and Z’s today. They are expecting to be achieving all these things in their life and to be perfect while doing it. This is not how it works. You have to be aloud to fail and you have to be given time to reach these lofty goals.
The media, along with schools and educational institutional educations are 110% the cause of this problem in society. Gossip magazines are to blame for women’s body issue problems and newspapers are to blame for men’s chronic need to achieve in their careers from a very young age.
What is the solution? Awareness and the ability to question the status quo. Gen Y’s and Z’s need to be very selective as to what media and books they take it. The self help and wealth creation industry is obsessed with how to books. Let’s start to read why books.