Perfectionism is a trait that has helped so many doctors achieve excellence – to aspire to become a physician, to succeed in school, and to carefully diagnose and treat patients. It is also a trait that can leave us feeling anxious, controlling, and afraid of minor “failures” that others might accept as normal, even if disappointing, occurrences. Unbridled, perfectionism is a trait that can push us to the brink of physician burnout.
The perfectionist is:
- Unwilling to share responsibility for fear that someone less able may miss something, or for fear that their own expectations will not be met.
- May commit more time to tasks than is practical or necessary – even when there is no added benefit – checking and double checking details, sacrificing personal or professional time, and expending valuable energy.
So in addition to helping us strive for excellence, perfectionism also makes us our own worst judge. It makes us spend unnecessary time and put undue stress and pressure on ourselves. It can leave us vulnerable to physician burnout – a state a little less than perfect.
Protect yourself from physician burnout by trusting the work of peers and support staff who have earned respect in their fields. And cut yourself a break. You’re human! If you make a mistake, forgive yourself and move on. Don’t judge yourself harshly. Reevaluate your expectations. Make sure they are realistic, with ups and downs. . . perfectly realistic.