Perfectionism: A Blessing and a Curse

by Loretta Langille, BHSc, CEC, ACC

The dental profession often sets extremely high standards for excellence. I recall the pressure I felt to ensure I didn’t miss a thing. We were trained to measure in millimetres, feel specs of grain and see the slightest shade differences; so we can’t help but notice the minute. Even years after retiring from the profession, I still notice when something is off by half a millimetre! Yes, I was that hygienist who recorded 3.5 mm on my charting notes. Who’s with me on that one? I believe many of us are hardwired to excel with the finer details and be cursed by a life of perfectionism if we are not careful.

Can you recall a time when you knew a client needed something without them saying a word? Maybe you sensed they were cold and needed a blanket or that they were feeling anxious and needed a breather. With experience, reading clients’ emotional cues became second nature to me. We notice the extra subtle and when we can serve our clients through such an empathetic response here in lies the “blessing”.

However, when we feel a flush of anxiety as we notice a piece of calculus we missed on an X-ray and worry we will be harshly judged by our colleagues, stress about running a couple minutes behind schedule or feel like a failure when we couldn’t get all the black-line stain off during the client’s visit; we have met the “curse”.

Having high standards and intending to do a thorough job is not the problem. It becomes an issue when we turn on ourselves and allow fears of being seen as not good enough take hold.

“Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a 20-tonne shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.” Brené Brown

If perfectionism is taking a toll not only in your clinical life but in your life overall; you’re not alone. The beautiful thing is that if you recognize it, you can start to mindfully shift towards the truth that you are perfectly imperfect.

Perfectionism often prevents us from taking action, creating or putting ourselves out there. When we allow our guard to come down and let ourselves express our truth, experiment, or create, it can get messy; but we will learn, grow and discover incredible things about ourselves. It’s easier to open up to our vulnerability in an environment where we feel safe to fully be ourselves. It’s okay if you’re not ready to do this at work. You could give it a try it in a nurturing, supportive setting. Carve out some time to create, not for the outcome, but for the sheer joy of the process. You might surprise yourself and actually enjoy it. What is one thing you have been wanting to do, but fear has been standing in the way? What if you did it anyway?

About the Author

Loretta is an ICF Certified Coach & Intuitive Wellness Practitioner. Loretta supports her clients to align with their purpose to thrive doing what they love.  She offers services such as life coaching and holistic wellness services such as guided meditation, sound healing, Emotional Freedom Techniques, Massage, Usui Reiki and retreats on Vancouver Island. Loretta helps her clients hear their wise inner voice and take meaningful action to build their dreams.