The tale of a recovering perfectionist made into a UX designer.

Have you experienced a similar story of awakening? How did it change your life?


Gemma Alcodori

3 years ago | 5 min read

I have always been obsessed with becoming better faster (and simultaneously, at a lot of things at once) — until now.

See, I always understood that being a hustler was on its own, an art form. Did your coworkers also have a mug that read “Rise and Grind” or a dark-themed typography wallpaper with the motto “Respect the Hustle”? Back in my college days, I would repeat to myself that I wouldn’t wait for success to come to me; that I would get it myself.

The hustling era has continued to thrive in economically prosperous cities. I think it’s worth asking ourselves why we, as individuals, insist on tying our self-worth to how productive we are or our willingness to say yes to more and more work.

Being a hustler and a perfectionist has made me consume a lot of time and energy by saying yes to many things that didn’t really add value to my life. I would have never thought that learning how to say “no” to the things that don’t elevate my purpose was the first step in recovering from perfectionism.

Designed by Jack Butcher, creator of Visualize Value.

The rise in the number of people who have toxic perfectionism behaviors doesn’t mean each generation is becoming more accomplished. It means we’re getting sicker, sadder, and even undermining our own potential. Are we pushing ourselves because we’re trying to fulfill our potential, or are there external forces at play? When we overextend ourselves, what are we chasing? Praise? Recognition? Self-respect?

Where is this increase in numbers coming from? When you keep in mind the idea that perfectionism stems from marrying your identity with your achievements, the question might become: where isn’t it coming from?

The working world has a funny way of tricking us into seeing ourselves as productivity machines first and people second. After all, many of us live in societies where the first question is what you do for a living when you meet someone new.

While studying graphic design and advertising in my early college days, I remember falling in love with Don Draper from MadMen and dreaming about becoming an art director in NYC. I drafted a roadmap and fought hard to create opportunities for myself at every step of the way. Needless to say, the plan was quickly forgotten. I just started saying yes to every freelance gig.

I attended every networking event possible, agreed to every collab, leveraged professional relationships into mentors, traveled to conferences, leveled up as a UX designer in a tech startup, and even became a finalist in a pitch competition show. I was a very sleep-deprived 24 years old doing everything and anything to grow, learn, and earn an ad agency role.

Two years of hustling allowed me to move to the big city and start a fresh new life as an art director.

I felt powerful and at the top of my career. I felt complete and in control.

I turned 25 and became a financial provider for my family.

Everything was going as planned, and I loved every minute.

Designed by Jack Butcher, creator of Visualize Value.

The hardest lesson for me was to learn how to gain consciousness about being honest with what motivated me to show up. What makes extreme perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, we end up being most focused on avoiding failure, resulting in a series of negative experiences both personally and professionally.

“It’s no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti.

The ability to recognize and accept your failures rather than avoid them is a mandatory skill for success, and without it, you end up losing and losing and losing.

When perfectionism is healthy, it can be self-motivating and drive you to overcome adversity and achieve success. Keeping the right perspective allows us to adapt and stay calm during the chaos. When unhealthy, it can be a fast and enduring track to unhappiness and frustrations.

Designed by Jack Butcher, creator of Visualize Value.

I continued to spend many late nights at the office, even after everyone else had driven home and eaten dinner, to get ahead on my job. I worked through hunger pains, dehydration, and exhaustion all in hopes of delivering great work and extra freelance requests, continuing educating myself, getting ahead of deadlines, and/or outperforming others.

Several months later, I faced the worse void of my existence — an existential crisis, if you will.

Designed by Jack Butcher, creator of Visualize Value.

The day came where I allowed myself the quietness and mental space to be radically honest. I slowly started coming up with answers to a series of existential questions: what does success mean to me? If money didn’t exist, what would I want to spend the rest of my life doing? How am I contributing to make the world a better place? What can I do to help those around me that are in need? What do I want my legacy to look like after I leave this world? What are my most important values, and how am I honoring them?

And reality hit me hard…My life lacked a clear purpose, and my work lacked a meaningful intent.

The last lesson that helped me leave behind my perfectionist behavior after this crushing moment was trusting the downfall, trusting the process, and trusting myself.

I was determined to realign my reality, so after 10 years in the U.S. I moved back home to Barcelona and started putting all my energy back into learning UX and taking on meaningful work to create value around products, services, and people.

“Design is content with intent. Content without intent is noise. Intent without content is decoration.” Joe Sparano

The beauty of this focused discipline is that there is always a clear goal in mind. Creativity is used with the alignment of a clear purpose: solve problems and create useful solutions. Your biggest superpowers are your endless curiosity to dive deeper into problems and the empathy you have for others.

You and your preferences are not part of the equation — and I love that.

Book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

To become a great UX designer, you must take the time to focus on understanding the real needs, problems, desires, dreams, and goals of the people you are designing for. Building a deep connection with your users is key to embody their everyday thinking, emotions, and behavior.

This creative approach to problem-solving places people at the center of the digital design process, allowing product teams to design products and services to solve people’s problems and help them lead easier and more productive lives.

If you have read all the way through this ending, I salute you. Thank you!
You have the power to be part of the collective fighting against the hustle culture.

Have you experienced a similar story of awakening? How did it change your life?

How do you fight off the perfectionist mindset?

I would love to know. Share it in the comments, please.

Let’s all embrace our vulnerability and leave the fear of being judged out of the door.


Created by

Gemma Alcodori







Related Articles