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Why Spud's "I'm a bit of a perfectionist" made me cringe

24 years ago Spud made me cringe, and not a moment too soon. You see, up until first watching Trainspotting (movie), my stock answer to the interview question "What's your biggest weakness?" was "I'm a bit of a perfectionist."

I'd only recently doled out that very answer during a series of job interviews.

I know, I know. Such a spud! But what was I know? I was only 24, myself. I'd been taught at school that interviews were a time to present everything in a positive light. And I was specifically coached on how to answer the "What's your biggest weakness?". That coaching included a role play with my school's careers adviser (the "head of industrial relations" in my school) to help me practice saying it.

It wasn't till hearing Spud saying "I'm a bit of a perfectionist." that I realised what a rubbish answer it was.

What made it rubbish wasn't just that it was a cliché doled out by many other students of primitive employment counselling. It wasn't even because I didn't consider perfectionism a proper weakness. After all, I saw perfectionism as advantageous because I thought it lead to high standards.

What made it especially rubbish was that I never thought for a minute that I was an actual perfectionist. In fact, I kind of aspired to be one.

As it turns out, I was definitely a perfectionist. I just hadn't worked out that perfection was unattainable. And I certainly wasn't conscious of all the pain perfectionism was still to cause!

Adendum

In later years, various people tried to coach me to answer the "What's your biggest weakness?" by picking a weakness to share which I was already well on the way to overcoming. Why? Because that would demonstrate that (a) I had enough self awareness to recognise my own weaknesses, and (b) I was the kind of person who tackled weaknesses head on.

If only careers advisers coached people to actually address their weaknesses!



 

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