For Latinas, the pressure to be perfect can be particularly intense. Even though America is well known as a country of opportunities for everyone, the truth is that minorities still have some obstacles to face to grow, be recognized, and succeed. Now add the fact of being a woman and an immigrant in Corporate America. The challenge is daunting, but while some obstacles are external, the more important one comes from the inside.
Studies from the American Psychiatric Association have shown that immigration and acculturation may play a role in perfectionism; due to these factors, Hispanic adults and youth are more vulnerable to psychological stress.
Many Latinas nowadays are first-generation Americans, so naturally, they feel the responsibility to live up to their parent’s expectations and make them proud. Additionally, they may face workplace stereotypes and discrimination, which can result in a constant need to prove themselves. As a result, Latinas may feel compelled to be flawless and work twice as hard to be taken seriously, achieve success, and move up the corporate ladder. This constant pressure can be exhausting for them. A 2022 Hispanic Star report stated that 29% of Latina’s experience burnout in the workplace, an issue associated with perfectionism.
To break this paradigm, they need to understand where all this behavior comes from. Once identify this factor, they can start to reframe all their beliefs and strengthen their mindset to begin a path of continuous advancement in their personal and professional lives.
Latino culture impacted the women of today
In many Latino families, perfectionism is seen as a virtue. Due to the story of their countries, they have a chip very encrusted in their minds that tells them they need to work harder than anyone to achieve something. While this drive to succeed can be a positive trait, it can also lead to unhealthy behavior.
It is common for Latino parents to teach their children to be the best they can be, to put all their effort to achieve the best grades and fulfill a list of social requirements.
When focusing on young girls and women, the exigence is bigger. Research by Girlguiding UK found that a quarter of 7 to 10-year-old girls felt the need to be perfect. The desire to be perfect seems to influence thinking from a young age.
Growing up, Latinas often learn to strive for excellence and never settle for less than their best. They do not only have to be the best students, be polite and behave, but they also need to sit like “señoritas”, dress well for every occasion, be good daughters, good sisters, good mothers, please everyone, and not raise their voices.
This checkbox sets gives girls the feeling that if they fail in at least one of these, they are not good enough. A child who believes that she must be flawless, or produce perfect work at all times, will clearly become very unhappy, as it is impossible for her to ever achieve her goals.
Service culture vs. Individuality culture
On the other hand, there is a sense of service and belonging that has been unconsciously passed down from generation to generation. Finding a balance between following these purely traditional family values and integrating more personal goals is another challenge facing Latina professionals.
According to an article published by St. John Fisher University, A Profile of Latina Leadership in the United States: Characteristics, Positive Inﬂuences, and Barriers, in Latina society, women are expected to be passive and fulfill the role of caretakers of their families and communities. This idea of pleasing everyone before themselves or being responsible for everything around them poses a conflict when this ideal confronts the need to fulfill personal and professional expectations, even more so in a country whose culture encourages individualism and provides growth opportunities.
This persistent thinking is a limitation for Latinas as they try to advance their careers and achieve their goals. They often avoid taking risks for fear of failure, feel that their mistakes are more noticeable because of their background, and believe it prevents them from taking leadership roles in their teams or proving their worth in the workplace.
How to break the paradigm
Recognize the Negative Effects of Perfectionism
The first step in breaking the perfectionism culture is to recognize the negative traits it can have on the lives of Latinas. Perfectionism can lead to a fear of failure, which can keep them from taking risks and pursuing new opportunities. It can also lead to anxiety and burnout.
Instead of striving to meet impossibly high standards, it is key to focus on progress. Latinas should learn to embrace their imperfections and view mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth. By recognizing these, Latinas may shift their mindset and approach their work and life with a healthier perspective.
Set Realistic Goals and Expectations
Latinas should set challenging but achievable goals rather than setting impossible standards for themselves. Ensuring that goals are attainable and having a clear plan to achieve them are essential. It will help avoid the pressure of feeling like they must be perfect all the time.
Latinas should also learn to manage their expectations and avoid putting unnecessary pressure on themselves.
Celebrate your accomplishments
When accomplishing something, no matter how small it may seem, take the time to celebrate it.
Remember what I mentioned before; while setting realistic goals, it will be easier for you to succeed. Every step you take is an advance in your career, and take credit for your hard work and the progress made toward your goals.
Latinas women must learn to be kind and compassionate to themselves. It means treating themselves with understanding and patience rather than harsh criticism. It’s okay if something did not work as you wanted, but now you have another chance to improve it.
Break the cycle of self-criticism and develop a healthier relationship with yourself. As people say, “treat yourself like you will treat someone you love.”
Seek Support and Accountability
Remember that you are not alone. Seeking support and accountability from others can be a helpful way to stay on track and maintain a healthy perspective. Whether friends, family, or colleagues, share with them what challenges you are facing and how you feel at that moment. Share your goals and working experiences as well, you never know who can help you reach them or encourage you to keep working towards them.
Also, finding the guidance of a coach or a mentor can be helpful to overcome any struggle you might face within your career and personal life.
As Latina women, we often face the pressure to be perfect in every aspect of our lives. This pressure can come from our families, culture, and even our workplaces; while striving for excellence can be beneficial, when it turns into unhealthy behavior, it can lead to negative consequences such as burnout, imposter syndrome, and a fear of failure.
By holding unattainable ideals, we end up demotivating ourselves, will never feel good enough, and will miss out on the perks of achievement.
Consider that Latino heritage can be geared toward a positive side that does not undermine their well-being. Work ethic, being service oriented, striving and having a sense of community, without falling into excess are characteristics that will take us as far as we believe we can go.
That’s why breaking the perfectionism culture is essential for achieving success. Latinas can reach their goals without sacrificing their well-being.
If you are a purpose-driven Latina woman, there is a way to develop a better relationship with yourself and reach your goals without sacrificing your well-being. Do you want to know if you are a perfectionist? Take this test and contact me.
The original version of this publication appeared in Brainz Magazine