Career & Finance

Is Your Perfectionism Causing Career Burnout? An Expert Reveals Key Signs

Source: @karolina-grabowska | Pexels
Source: @karolina-grabowska | Pexels

Perfectionism is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, having ambition and striving to do the best job possible can help you reach new heights in your career. On the other hand, the constant pressure to always deliver flawless results can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. Both of these things can cause burnout and, in turn, negatively impact your job performance. Needless to say, this is a headache you don’t need in your life. So how do you, as a perfectionist, strike the perfect balance?

We did a little research and chatted with an expert to support our fellow go-getters out there (we see you!). And in doing this, we learned that it is possible to do a kick-ass job without letting your perfectionism run you into the ground. The trick? Catching it before it’s too late. Ahead, the key signs your perfectionism is causing burnout and what to do about it.

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a personality trait that drives someone to strive for perfect results no matter what, one hundred percent of the time. This is why perfectionists are prone to harsh self-judgment and criticism and often develop a fear of failure. “In its essence, perfectionism is the belief that your productivity is directly tied to your worthiness,” Human Design Expert, Quantum Healer, and Life Coach Erin Panzarella told me. She then explained that perfectionists strive for flawlessness because they believe it will make them better. “However, because humans are inherently imperfect, trying to attain it [perfection] will always lead to burnout.”


Erin Panzella

With certifications and expertise spanning from life coaching to human design, breathwork, and more, Erin Panzella helps women break out of the limiting beliefs that are getting in the way of their success. Thanks to her inclusive approach and expertise, her clients have learned how to create actionable change in their daily life, careers, and finances so they can finally move forward with the purpose, power, and confidence they need to achieve their goals.

Key signs your perfectionism is causing burnout

You can’t turn your brain off

When you have a looming deadline for a big project or are working on something major, it’s normal to spend more time thinking about work than usual. But this can cause burnout when it’s a regular occurrence, and overthinking is a common plight of perfectionism. Panzarella explained that because perfectionists are constantly trying to prove their worth, they tend to obsess over every detail—like if they worded an email well—because they don’t want their colleagues to think less of them. If turning your brain off is practically impossible in and outside of work and you’re constantly overthinking big and small details, your perfectionism is leading to burnout if you haven’t burned yourself out already.

You take on more when you’re already overwhelmed

Perfectionists are some of the most reliable, diligent, and conscientious workers out there. This is precisely why they never refuse to take on more, regardless of whether they’re already overwhelmed. Sure, this might appease your bosses and all, but if this is something you do, it’ll eventually lead to burnout. Not only are you taking on more when your mental and emotional resources are already running low, if not depleted completely, but you’re also carving out less and less time for yourself to relax and reset. When this happens, common symptoms of burnout (like exhaustion and cynicism) can make getting any work done, even the smallest tasks, feel like an impossible feat.

Burnout can make getting any work done, even the smallest tasks, feel like an impossible feat.

You feel like your job and to-do list are never-ending

According to Panzarella, feeling like your job and to-do list are never-ending are also red flags. Not only do your tasks continue piling up because you can’t possibly get to them all, but you keep adding things you think you have to do to your to-do list. For example, you might add “edit project” to your list despite editing and revising it already because you’re focused on delivering perfection. Needless to say, these two things can make you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, and when combined, they can eventually lead to burnout.

You spend way too long on a single task

Let’s be clear: 99.99 percent of people want to produce and turn in high-quality work on time. But spending longer than necessary on any given task is a red flag. While setting high standards isn’t a bad thing, it becomes a problem when you’re constantly pressuring yourself to deliver work that’s nothing short of flawless. This only leads to unnecessary stress, anxiety, fatigue, and eventually, burnout.

You constantly feel fatigued drained

Anyone who’s ever experienced this knows that while it’s not fun, it’s usually something you can bounce back from eventually. With perfectionism, however, it’s not uncommon to constantly feel fatigued and drained—both of which are telltale signs of burnout. Likewise, physical symptoms like recurring headaches or illness and ongoing gastrointestinal problems are also common signs. If this is something you can relate to, take that as a sign that your perfectionism might be hurting you more than it’s helping you.

What to do if your perfectionism is causing burnout

Try automatic writing

If your perfectionism is burning you out, Panzarella recommends engaging in automatic writing. With this, you set a timer for ten minutes and answer three questions: Where does my perfectionism stem from? If I’m not perfect, who will I disappoint? What will happen if I let myself make mistakes instead of doing everything perfectly? Allowing your pen to flow freely is key here. “Getting the answers to these questions can be really enlightening and give you the direction on what is going on underneath your perfectionism,” she said.

Repeat affirmations

Additionally, enlisting the help of self-love affirmations can also be helpful. Panzarella explained that repeating phrases that remind you how worthy you are out loud to yourself or hanging them somewhere you’ll see daily (like your fridge or office) will reprogram subconscious beliefs tied to your perfectionism. “By working with the inner belief that you are worthy as you are, you can make a ton of progress when it comes to healing your burnout.”

  • I am worthy.
  • I am enough.
  • I’m a good employee, and I deserve to take some time off and relax.
  • Mistakes are simply opportunities for growth.
  • I am allowed to make mistakes.
  • Flaws are not inadequacies.
  • My best is good enough.
  • Progress over perfection.
  • Perfection is unrealistic.

Set boundaries at work

Setting boundaries with work is also crucial for your mental health and well-being. Without boundaries, you run the risk of overworking and burning yourself out. So, take small breaks throughout the day by doing things like periodically getting water, stretching your legs, and taking your whole lunch break to yourself.

Similarly, there’s a common misconception that being available 24/7 is key to achieving our goals and impressing our bosses. But the truth is, it actually has the opposite effect and only hinders our job performance. Instead of overworking or working after hours or on the weekends, set and stick to working within work hours only. Likewise, Panzarella also suggests setting boundaries that help take things off your plate, like saying “no” or asking for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. All of these things will help to create a healthy work-life balance and help you avoid burnout.

By working with the inner belief that you are worthy as you are, you can make a ton of progress when it comes to healing your burnout.

Pay attention to what your body is telling you

Since burnout can be felt in your body, paying attention to it is non-negotiable. Doing this will clue you in on what’s going on and teach you which common warning signs to look for. For example, if you feel irritable whenever you’re burnt out, you’ll know to take a step back and decompress whenever you start losing your patience and feeling on edge. Depending on what works for you, this might mean treating yourself to a girl dinner, taking a bubble bath, or calling up your BFF to vent.

Similarly, prioritize nourishing your body. The brain and body work in harmony, so the more you take care of your body, the better your brain will feel. Focus on getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated, eating balanced meals, and exercising.


Regardless of whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, socializing can be so beneficial for perfectionists. Not only does it cement those boundaries and help foster work-life balance, but it also allows them to get out of their own head. After all, overthinking creates a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape from, especially when you’re alone.

If you’re working to overcome perfectionism and prevent burnout caused by it, make it a point to socialize regularly. This could mean meeting up with friends, FaceTiming someone, hanging with your family, or picking up a new hobby. Whatever the case may be, socializing will help you physically and mentally break away from work and prevent burnout in the long run.

Create supportive morning and nighttime routines

It’s no secret that having a solid morning and nighttime routine can be seriously beneficial for your well-being, so it’s no surprise that it can also help you avoid exhaustion and improve your job performance, too. Instead of checking your email first thing in the morning, figure out which practices help you gently ease into your day. This could be drinking your coffee outside, getting in a sweat sesh, or reading a good book with your breakfast. Likewise, figure out what helps you unwind and reset after work. For some, this may be a nice bath, cooking a nice meal, or reading a good book.

Whatever you decide, creating a morning and nighttime routine that helps you unwind is a major key to preventing burnout. It’ll help you relax and reset, so you can enter each day feeling refreshed and ready to churn out high-quality work.