Anne Lamott, one of our favourite authors, defines perfectionism as the “voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people”; and as a “mean, frozen form of idealism”.
She’s spot on.
Perfectionism seems like a strength – something to trumpet in your resume. But it’s a cop out, and a big problem in private practice.
As a profession, speech pathology attracts more than its fair share of perfectionists, and many of us try for too long to be all things and to please all people.
- makes excellent clinicians miserable and afraid to act when they need to;
- ⬇︎ healthy risk-taking and innovation;
- drowns the enthusiasm and energy of too many early careerists under waves of dread, guilt, anxiety and hopelessness; and
- ⬆︎ turnover and burnout.
Speech pathology is messy, complex, intense and emotional work. We’re all limited by our abilities, energy reserves and resources. We’re fallible because we’re human.
The world is imperfect, and at times looks untidy, or even chaotic. But the messiness reflects complexity and diversity: it doesn’t mean things needs to be fixed or tidied up according to our own (biased) preferences.
We must support our colleagues by:
- calling out perfectionism when we see it;
- focusing on colleagues as people, rather that nitpicking their day-to-day performance; and
- normalising mistakes and limits, including owning up to our own.
Paraphrasing Lamott, we all make messes to find out who we are, why we’re here, and what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives.
For more tips on supervising staff in private practice – including supervising perfectionists, under-performers, and stars – check out our book: “How to Supervise Speech Pathologists Properly in Private Practice”
Are you a bit of a perfectionist? What do you do to manage it?
Hi there, I’m David Kinnane.
Principal Speech Pathologist, Banter Speech & Language
Our talented team of certified practising speech pathologists provide unhurried, personalised and evidence-based speech pathology care to children and adults in the Inner West of Sydney and beyond, both in our clinic and via telehealth.