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You made the varsity team as a sophomore. Your coaches were so impressed that they started you at the beginning of the season, but after a few games, you decide to quit.

You’re not struggling or playing poorly. In fact, your coaches praise your athleticism. Even still, you quit because you feel like you’re just not good enough.

This is not as rare as you think. In fact, this condition is becoming more common with younger generations. Research from a 2017 meta-analysis published in Psychological Bulletin found that since the late 1980s, every generation of young adults has been more prone to perfectionism than the generation before them.

This is detrimental to your wellness but it can also hurt your career. If you want to work in sports and thrive, you need to know how to take risks and grow.

The first step to overcoming perfectionism is understanding it.

Types of Perfectionism

The Psychological Bulletin research showed increases in three types of perfectionism. These types are specific to your perception:

  • Self-directed: This leads you to be conscientious. You hold high standards for performance. It can be associated with greater work productivity and career success, but will be detrimental if it’s maladaptive.
  • Socially prescribed: This is a pressure to be perfect in every aspect. Your self-worth is tied to a sense of unrealistic standards others hold for you. This leads to anxiety and obsession over performance.
  • Other-oriented: You hold others to very high standards, which leads to you being judgemental of their performance. This causes struggles with delegating work to others and building healthy working relationships.

When Perfectionism Is Damaging

Adaptive perfectionism is healthy if you’re aiming high and doing your best. This standard yields a positive, strong work ethic.

On the other hand, maladaptive perfectionism is where you run into issues. It involves excessive self-criticism and leads to paralyzing fear of failure and avoidance behaviors.

This will hurt your career and ability to find work in sports. In the workplace, you will experience issues with focus and concentration. You are more prone to procrastinate out of fear that you’ll do the task wrong or embarrass yourself.

Also, you will struggle to relate to colleagues and leadership, while carrying around a sense of never feeling competent or confident. This causes stress, discontentment, and an inability to relax.

How to Overcome Perfectionism

Despite all the issues caused by perfectionism, there are several solutions for overcoming and treating it. According to a 2018 study published in PLOS One, self-compassion counterbalances the link between maladaptive perfectionism and depression in both adolescents and adults.

Learning self-compassion is possible but it doesn’t happen overnight. It requires consistent, ongoing effort in practicing several techniques. Start by forgiving yourself every day. If you make a mistake on a sales call, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, pause, reflect on your mistake, and tell yourself you’re forgiven.

Moving past bumps in the road requires adopting a growth mindset. It’s a belief that your talents and intelligence are malleable. You can develop them.

This drives motivation and achievement but it’s a prerequisite. If you’re stuck in a fixed mindset, thinking that your qualities are not changeable will halt your personal and professional development.

Develop a growth mindset by changing how you approach challenges. They’re opportunities, not unclimbable mountains. Also, acknowledge your imperfections instead of hiding from them.

If you work in sports, you’re familiar with athleticism. The best athletes in the world have one thing in common — they accept failures and setbacks as part of the process of growth, not something to be avoided. Start adopting this mentality in your daily life.

Perfectionism doesn’t have to stop you from finding work in sports and achieving your professional goals. If you’re experiencing it, acknowledge that. With awareness, you can move forward with overcoming it.

How does perfectionism impact your career in sports? Share in the comments!

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