Last night on my Confused to Confident Getting Unstuck and Living a Life of Purpose webinar, the topic of perfectionism came up. We had been talking about some tips and ways to get unstuck and I had some suggestions for ways to get started to move past this. The question was something to the effect of “how do we do this if we are focused on perfectionism?”
This is something I’ve personally struggled with myself for many years, and especially as it relates to this blog. I told the story last night of how over the past 9 years this blog has been around, I’ve developed so many products and programs that actually never saw the light of day because I let my own need for perfection get in the way!
As I look back now, all I could think was What a waste that I had all this great stuff and never did anything with it because I was so worried it wouldn’t be perfect”.
What I’ve realized about myself is those of us that are perfectionists aren’t trying to achieve something great. We are really trying to avoid something negative.
I can tell I’m letting a lot of that go because last night on the webinar I had some technical issues, that in the past, would have set me in a tailspin and probably caused me to stop the whole webinar. But last night I just rolled with it and actually laughed at it! Why? Because there was nothing I could do! I had prepared the best I could but no matter how much we think we’ve prepared, sometimes things just happen!
And guess what? That’s ok!
Are you a struggling perfectionist?
Here are some signs to be aware of:
- You take things too far. No matter what you do, you take it to the limit. Everything has to be done as well as possible, whether it’s folding the laundry, parking the car, or doing something more meaningful. And generally it must be done by you, on your time frame and as fast and furious as possible!
- You’re judgmental of others. Your standards of acceptability are so high that no one can consistently achieve them. If you find yourself with less friends than you’d like or not as many dates as you’d like your commitment to be perfect might be the primary cause.
- You’re too hard on yourself. By the same token, you can’t live up to your expectations either. This leads to feelings of disappointment and shame. Are you more successful than most of the people you know, but less pleased with yourself than they are with themselves? Do you find it hard to be proud of yourself? Do you feel happy and proud when you’re successful, or do you merely feel a sense of relief? These are all great questions to ask yourself if you are a struggling perfectionist.
- You procrastinate excessively. The need to be perfect creates anxiety and makes it hard to get started. You may never finish something because it seems like it won’t be perfect, so why bother? You know you’re in for a lot of work and self-induced drama by operating this way but it’s your usual way of doing things and maybe don’t even notice it. Under those circumstances, anyone would be hesitant to get started and it most definitely puts unnecessary pressure on yourself!
If it isn’t obvious by now, there are several disadvantages to being a perfectionist.
Here are a few that I thought of:
- You waste a lot of time. Some things don’t require a high level of attention. To spend more time than necessary is a waste of an important resource: your time! If success is important to you, allocating your time wisely is an important consideration. It doesn’t have to be perfect and exactly right the first time you do it. It can always be improved upon later.
- It creates a lot of stress. Stress! Anxiety! Ugh those are two constant feelings I had when trying to live a perfect existence. When there’s only one way to be successful at something, there’s no room for error. Perfectionists aren’t usually happy people, I know I wasn’t a lot of the time. There’s a constant anxiety that can can’t be completely satisfied.
- You lose sight of the big picture. Bogging yourself down with trivial details can limit your awareness of the bigger objective. Sheets aren’t folded exactly right today? No problem, at least your laundry is clean and done. That is the most important step in that equation!
- You’re never happy with your results. You might be satisfied, but you’re never happy and that isn’t a fun way to live. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not spending every weekend cleaning your house from top to bottom so that it looks perfect and pristine. Do your best and then move on, I can tell you from experience it gets easier over time!
- You are limiting yourself. Being a perfectionist limits your efficiency and effectiveness. It puts you in a small box and only allows for the controlled things you let in to happen to you. Life is so much more than that and it’s ok to get out of that box!
What Can You Do if You’re a Perfectionist?
Here are some things to try:
- Determine how much time is reasonable for completing the task. Ask a friend or family member how long they would spend, and limit yourself to that amount of time. Set a timer and only work on the task as long as you set the timer for and then move on! You’ll soon learn what’s reasonable for you and what makes sense.
- Stay focused on the most important activities. Perfectionists spend too much time on minor details. Ask yourself “which activities will yield the most results for the time I just spent?” Start to pay attention more to what you want to do and not what you feel like you have to do and you will start to see your definition of important will begin to shift over time.
- Learn to accept being less than perfect. It’s ok to not be perfect! I’m giving you permission to not be perfect, not that you need it but I’ve found many women (myself included) sometimes just need someone else to tell us it’s ok. And I’m telling you it’s ok! Notice that no one else cares if something is less than perfect. You don’t need to beat everyone and it’s not a game!
Perfectionists believe they’re committed to excellence, but they’re actually avoiding feelings of inadequacy, and as I mentioned above, avoid something negative. If you’re a perfectionist, ask yourself these questions:
- What do you gain?
- What does it cost you?
- Do you take pleasure from being perfect?
- How do you feel when you’re less than perfect?
Perfectionism gets the in the way of seeing the beauty of the perfect life you already have. When you are focused on being too perfect, there is room for very little variety or spontaneity to come into your life. As I was thinking more about the topic of perfectionism last night, I thought it would be a great topic to talk about on the blog and get a discussion going about how perfectionism has impacted your life. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
P.S. If you enjoyed last night’s webinar, stay tuned. I’ll be hosting another one in September!