I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a long time.
But I was scared that I would not get it perfect.
So, I waited, and waited, and waited. Until the perfect time. When I could get it “just right” …
I AM A PERFECTIONIST.
Many women define themselves in this way. Sometimes we lay claim to this title like it’s a badge of honor. As if by being a perfectionist, we have our shit together.
per·fec·tion·ist – noun. 1. a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.
Because perfectionism is arbitrary, we often look to others for validation.
This self-imposed demand for perfectionism shapes our mindset, our way of approaching problems, dilemmas, and solutions.
A perfectionist has a self-image that relies heavily on their ability to “get it right.”
Perfectionism gets in the way of progress.
Specifically, the progress that we make when we take risks and step out of our comfort zone. Perfectionism keeps us from growing. My perfectionism “acts out” whenever I’m about to embark on something that makes me scared. Insecure. A little unsure of myself. Even if I don’t consciously know it at the time, my perfectionism jumps right in to protect me. It took me three weeks to write this blog. Because I was afraid I would not “get it right.” You feel me here?
So, I’ve been studying my perfectionism. Like a perfect social scientist. And while I’ve documented some obvious benefits to being a perfectionist (who doesn’t want a perfectly organized house?), I’ve also observed significant limitations caused by perfectionism. If we are not aware of our perfectionist tendencies, the BIG P will cloud our judgment, impact our actions, and set us up for failure.
The THREE Ways Perfectionism Holds us Back
(and what to do about it):
1. “I’m just waiting for the right time.”
Perfectionists love to procrastinate. But of course, we don’t call it “procrastination” (that’s such a yucky, imperfect word). We like to think we are strategic and savvy. When the project at work makes us nervous or writing a blog seems crazy, or returning that guy’s phone call makes us anxious… We put it off. We wait before we decide, we wait until the timing is right…. Whatever it is, if we can’t be sure we will get it “perfect” we procrastinate.
When you procrastinate, your perfectionism is getting in the way taking a risk. It’s protecting you from potential failure. And as humans, we grow the most when we fail.
If you find yourself procrastinating, take a step back from the situation and just look at the facts. Does it have to be perfect? If it’s not perfect, what is the worst that could happen? For example, what is the worst that could happen if you went on a blind date with that person that is not perfect on paper? You’d get a good meal out of the situation. Win.
2. “I don’t do anything half-way” or the “All-or-None” approach.
When was the last time you went on a diet? Perhaps you stuck to the plan like a fly on paper for the first few days, then ate the carrot cake at Middle Way and fell off the proverbial band wagon. Clearly, that diet sucked because it was not right for your body type. Or perhaps you strictly adhered to the diet, made t-shirts espousing the benefits of said diet, started a podcast, and formed a religious sect devoted to the promotion of this diet.
Perfectionists love to approach situations with an all-or-none mentality. And thus, we back ourselves into a corner where only two outcomes exist: (1) I’m either gonna suck at this and blame someone else, or (2) I’m gonna become the next guru on the topic and attribute it to my awesomeness.
The fear of failure is real folks. And when a perfectionist is facing potential failure, this all-or-none mentality gives us an out. It lets us blame failures on other people, other circumstances, other situations. It gives us a graceful (or not so graceful) exit from the situation. So the next time you find yourself facing the all-or-none demon, take a step back and ask yourself, If I fail in this situation, what is the worst that can happen?
3. “Did anyone just notice how awesome I am?”
Okay, tough lady, this one is gonna blow your ego. If you are a perfectionist, you are seeking other people’s approval. This is implied in the very definition of Perfectionism. How do we know we are perfect unless someone is around to notice and affirm our perfection?
Dig deep on this one, cause it’s a biggie. Perfectionists have big egos, and without people to affirm our awesomeness, we feel stuck and even paralyzed by fear of failure.
The other day I submitted a work project that I was quite proud of. My boss responded with a single-sentence email; “There’s a typo.” My soul was crushed. “What is his problem? Maybe he doesn’t like me. What did I do? I’m just doing my best, why didn’t he notice how much work I put into it? Fine. He’s an asshole.”
Without the assurance that they are perfect, a perfectionist will blame others for their discomfort. If I don’t feel supported, affirmed, valued, encourage, etc. I’ll quit my job, blame my boss for sending that email, tell my husband he isn’t supportive of my decisions, yell at my children…You get the picture.
So the next time your ego paralyzes you, take a deep breath and ask yourself “what is important here? What are the facts in this situation? And What is the worst that could happen?”
So there you have it, folks.
Perfectionism can stop us in our tracks.
If you see yourself in any of the examples above, then welcome to the club.
Awareness of your perfectionism is the first step to becoming the greater, better, more perfect you.
Stop trying to be an A student. This week strive to be a C student.
Notice the risks you take that you would not have otherwise made if you were aiming for an A. Notice the new fears, curiosities, and possibilities that emerge when you aim to get a C in life instead of an A.
Remember, you are the only one that you should impress. You are the only one that matters in this situation. Take a risk. Get a C.
I love you guys. Thanks for letting me share this imperfect blog post with you.