What do you do when the skill that brought you success is causing your downfall?

April 16, 2024 | By David St. Bernard and Danielle McCarron             

In the competitive landscape of modern working environments, where the benchmark of success is constant work achievements and extremely high productivity, there exists an insidious risk: burnout. This phenomenon, which individuals with perfectionist and high-achieving mindsets are particularly susceptible to, can turn the race for accomplishment into a perilous journey. In their quest for professional advancement over all else, these individuals often encounter a daunting, counterproductive by-product – a state of chronic stress, exhaustion, depression and ultimately burnout.

The Pitfalls of Perfectionism

Perfectionism, which is frequently associated with extremely high standards for “good enough” and impeccable attention to detail, can be a double-edged sword. It’s seen as the hallmark of the dedicated and the diligent. However, the relentless pursuit of perfection can be both exhausting and frustrating. Many perfectionists set unreasonably high standards for themselves, often at the expense of their well-being and, counterintuitively, their performance. Research has shown that perfectionism can promote heightened levels of anxiety, stress, and depression in some cases (Stoeber & Otto, 2006). Trapped in all-or-nothing thinking, where anything short of “perfect” is a failure, perfectionists often find themselves in a constant state of self-doubt and plagued by feelings of inadequacy.


“Redefining your relationship with success, prioritizing self-care, aligning with healthy goals, and fostering self-compassion are all crucial steps in combatting burnout.”


The High-Achieving Mindset

Individuals with a high-achieving mindset are characterized by their persistent drive towards accomplishment. This attribute, while often initially beneficial, can become counterproductive. Left unchecked, the relentless pursuit of accomplishment and success can become all-consuming, eclipsing the importance of well-being and balance. Often driven by external validation, this singular focus on achievement can trap individuals in a cycle of perpetual dissatisfaction and undermine the very success it seeks to foster.

The Path to Burnout

The intersection of perfectionism and the perceived need for perpetual high-achievement leaves individuals vulnerable to burnout. Characterized by emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion, burnout is not just a personal setback but also results in decreased productivity and efficacy at work (Maslach et al., 2001). This is particularly concerning in sectors where performance is largely valued over personal well-being. Ironically, the pursuit of professional excellence and achievement above all else often leads to diminished performance and a negative spill-over into personal life.

Preventing Burnout

Combatting burnout necessitates a shift in mindset and adoption of self-care practices. Acknowledging the limitations of perfectionism is the first step towards prevention. Redefining your relationship with success, prioritizing self-care, aligning with healthy goals, and fostering self-compassion are all crucial steps in combatting burnout. Furthermore, seeking assistance from a support network of friends, family and health professionals can be beneficial to implementing new and healthy lifestyle practices. The ultimate goal is to mitigate the risk of burnout, but when burnout occurs, remember that we can recover and come back stronger and better than ever.

If you relate to the perfectionist’s dilemma and you’re committed to realigning with your purpose, reach out to us and we’ll help you take ownership of your lived experience. START THE CONVERSATION TODAY.