Trying to be perfect can, at times, do more harm than good.
Yes, you want to get things right the first time, but beating yourself up over a mistake or holding yourself back because of fear of failure is never a good thing. In fact, studies show that perfectionists are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, which in turn can spill over into workplace performance.
Below are four ways you may actually accidentally be sabotaging your career in your quest to be perfect, and tips for helping you improve.
To get ahead in your career, it's crucial to be able to make hard decisions and take action. But if you're a perfectionist, your fear of messing up may lead you to delay action and overthink decisions that could solve key issues for your employer.
To help, author and former clinical psychologist Alice Boyes says you should develop specific guidelines that will lead you to make good decisions faster. In a recent post for Harvard Business Review, she gives the example of picking a hotel for a work event. To make a decision quickly, she says you should identify five criteria points that the space has to have and select the hotel that meets at least four out of five of them.
On a personal level, Boyes says she combats her perfectionism with a rule that allows her to do the jobs that yield the highest result and income first before taking on other minor assignments.
"This helps me de-prioritize marginally productive behaviors, like spending 30 mins returning an unsatisfactory low value item to a store when I could be doing something much more productive," she writes.
After the success of her memoir "Eat, Pray, Love," Elizabeth Gilbert admitted to being afraid to write for a while because she feared that her new work would not receive the same positive response. Author Benjamin Hardy says this paralyzing fear is something many perfectionists experience.
In a 2014 TED Talk, Gilbert talked about how she got over being stuck by forcing herself to fail a few times just to "get it out of her system." By following Gilbert's method of forcing failure, which helps you realize you can live with the worst even if it happens, Hardy says you can overcome emotional blocks that are holding you back from moving forward in your career.
When working in a team, Boyes writes, it's easy to develop unreasonably high expectations of your colleagues. While you may think you're helping to move the project or presentation forward by asking for nothing but the best, your demands can actually push your peers away.
"This especially applies to group projects where the end result will reflect on the perfectionist," she writes.
For example, she says, if you suggest a lot of last minute, minor tweaks to a presentation, it can seem to your group that you are piling on extra work at a time when everyone is exhausted and ready to go home.
"Nitpicking colleagues or being too demanding can harm relationships and sometimes lead to the perfectionist being socially excluded because they're emotionally hard work to deal with," she says.
To avoid coming off as a negative person, Boyes proposes that you ask yourself, "How can I improve my behavior by 1 percent?" That will help you to think of small, easy ways you can be a better colleague, such as by making a positive comment during a meeting or a group presentation.
Mistakes are inevitable and it's futile to beat yourself up after you make one. Psychologists refer to the act of overthinking and freezing up after a mistake, fearing that you will be terrible at everything afterwards, as catastrophizing. That can be dangerous, according to author and organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich, because catastrophizing can disguise itself as productive self-reflection.
It can be helpful to re-frame your mistake as an opportunity to grow. Some of the most successful people in the world have experienced huge failures and they aren't afraid to boast about the lessons they learned.
Billionaire Mark Cuban refers to his failures as learning experiences and says that early on he "had quit or been fired from three straight jobs." He adds that the only way to really find out what you're good at is to embrace your mistakes and failures and to get back up after you make them.
"I truly believe each and every one of us is really good at something. Right? The hard part is finding out what that is and going through all the different — kissing all the frogs before you find the prince of the job, right?" Cuban says on The Thrive Global Podcast. "And I think you have to try and experience as many things as you can, and once you get there then try to be as good as you can at it."
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