Is Perfectionism Robbing You Of Connection And Progress?
You know how it goes: there are certain conditions that we think will never get us, that they don’t apply to us, and in the moment we are diagnosed with them, we are for a second out of breath. A moment of disbelief. But… it makes sense. Acceptance.
I was talking to a life coach, few weeks ago, and I shared with her that there is something holding me back from moving forward in one area. It was a short session, but… one after another, discoveries were made as to what it is. She made some great suggestions and I had to agree.
So… I am a perfectionist… You would never guess, because I am doing lots of things imperfectly, but perfectionism doesn’t necessarily show up in all areas of life. Once I knew that perfectionism is in the way of getting things done, I was on a mission to free myself from it.
Below are the most common signs of perfectionism. I can only hope you don’t suffer from any of them.
1. You explain yourself. When you happen to do things slightly below your standards, you explain yourself to everybody around. Why? Because a perfectionist cares too much about what others will think about her. She is subconsciously afraid of rejection, punishment, criticism. Are you recalling where you learned this pattern?
Example: a homeowner whom we visit on a short notice, will constantly apologize for her mess though her home looks amazing. The truth is: real friends won’t care.
2. It takes you forever to complete a job; project, article, spreadsheet; whatever you work on. You waste precious time revising, reviewing, asking for feedback and obsessing what else can you do. So it is perfect.
The truth is – objective “perfect” doesn’t exist. It will never be perfect for everyone- it just has to feel good for you, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like it. And there always will be people that will love it. For them it will be perfect.
Example: go to art galleries and you will immediately notice: people are making crap and they are proud of it. The gallery owner looks at the crap and agrees to display it. Then a customer walks in and thinks “hmm that is a great crap, I want it, here is 5k” So in the essence, you can as well be happy with your work much faster – and save yourself a lot of time. Being a perfectionist is not making you to create better things. It is making you stress more.
3. You are pressing gas and a brake pedal at the same time. You are immobilized. You really want to do it, but you want it to be perfect the first time. Now isn’t that interesting? We master things by rehearsal, by practice…
But I forgot: Example: when I started to paint after a long break, I wanted to create my magnum opus on the first few canvases. So instead of going with the flow of inspiration I would wonder it that stroke of brush will be good enough, unique enough. As you can guess – in that period of time no great paintings were created. Those I am most happy with were just “preludes”, pieces I didn’t stress over.
Solution: if I changed attitude towards myself and the work, I would be easier on myself and enjoy the work much more. That would produce wonderful mistakes = inspirations to other painting – this is what I experienced years ago.
4. You put too much pressure on others. For example you demand that others do things your way, or there will be consequences.
Pressing others to keep up with impossible standards will not only not create a desired outcome, but will stress the relationships, is it in private life or at work. When we drop perfection, we remove pressure from others.
5. You lose connection with who you are. You put so much effort into appearing perfect that you lose connection with your inner self. Instead of dealing with your insecurities, you push them down in the effort to appear ideal. This sweeping dirt under the carpet will sooner or later be discovered, so why not deal with the mess when it is small. As Brene Brown writes in her blog:
“Perfectionism is NOT about striving to be your best. It’s NOT about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we’ll escape the pain of criticism, ridicule, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield.”
It may be time to face it: imperfect is authentic, appealing and irresistible. And we love people that are authentic and not afraid to show their weaknesses and share their struggles.
6. You care too much about people who don’t care about you. Basically: about the judges, the critics. If you think about it – your perfectionism must have started somehow. Either from too strict and demanding parents, kids that were picking on you, or even abusive boss or an ex. Those people and their judgmentalism may still be alive in your head long after you freed yourself from them. Except that not completely.
Possible solution: It takes time, but if you mindfully catch the moments when judgement appears – notice where does it come from and whose voice is really talking in your head. Change focus: if we take under consideration people who really care about us, people to whom we matter – the pressure is off.
Do you have a part of you that you identified as a “perfectionist”, do you want to get rid of it completely? If you liberated yourself from perfectionism in the past – can you share how did it go? (I’m thinking more about training it, keeping it on a short leash- and slowly transforming it to a “quality control” part.)
If you go thru it now: test the grounds. Be mindful where you overextend yourself. Not stressing about the work doesn’t mean that you don’t care. Stop early. Is anyone seeing a difference?
Maybe they even will be excited for you….
I was on a phone with my friend, Julie, and we talked about strict house rules some people have.
– You are an empty kitchen sink person, aren’t you? – Julie asked suspiciously.
– Actually… am looking at the sink now, and it is full. – My answer was emotionless.
– Great!! I am proud of you! – She exclaimed.
You just never know…