Hi, my name is B and I’m a perfectionist. I guess that’s why I’ve always been into researching the best ways to create a life that’s organized and productive. Maybe it’s my Type A personality, or my love of office supplies, or the encouragement I received from an early age to always “do your best”- I’m not sure how I developed this passion. Needless to say, I’ve tried to focus all of this knowledge and energy into a career that involves helping other people achieve that balance. I like to think that it’s a talent of mine.
Unfortunately, “balance” isn’t always a word in the vocabularies of people like myself. Throwing 100% of yourself into everything that you do is pretty admirable, but it’s also pretty exhausting.
And while we’re on the subject of giving it your best, what does “your best” mean anyways? What does “your best” look like? Does it change as you learn, and grow, and improve yourself? What if you can push yourself to do better?
At what point in time do you reach perfectionism?
There’s a narrow path between “best” and “good enough” known as perfectionism, and it’s a rocky road on which to find yourself. On the one hand, you may want to perform well on a task because it reflects favorably on your abilities and leaves you with a sense of satisfaction. On the other hand, the fear of failing leads to a line of questioning about your capacity to complete the task at all. What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m not good at anything? Or worse- what if someone else can do it better?
This is just one example. Perfectionism manifests itself in different ways. Some people can never complete a task because they feel that it’s never good enough; it’s never truly done. Others can’t even bring themselves to begin a task because they’re so overwhelmed with their own predictions of failure.
Figuring out the value of what “good enough” means to you- and knowing when and where you can learn to lower your standards- is half the battle in combating perfectionism. Of course, for people who have been practicing being perfect their whole lives this is an accomplishment that’s easier said than done. Perfectionism is a habit that is learned over the years and learning not to listen to that inner critic is a challenge. You may want to ask yourself how you allowed that voice in your head to get so loud anyway but maybe the better question is: why are you giving it your attention?
In the end the prescription for perfectionism is really about learning how to outwit your own worst enemy: yourself.
For perfectionists who never seem to get anything done because they get caught up in the details, it may be useful to limit the number of revisions you allow yourself on a project, or delegate tasks to cut down on your initial workload. For perfectionists who never seem to accomplish anything because they just can’t get started, it may be useful to set yourself mini-deadlines, or break down a project into smaller tasks to make your to-do list a little more manageable. (I’ve got some great advice on how to do that here.)
Finally, to all perfectionists everywhere, I dare you to try at least doing one thing less than perfectly. Trust me, the world won’t fall apart. In fact, you may even surprise yourself. You may find that just simply doing your best (whatever that may mean) is just “good enough”.
Do you struggle with perfectionism like I do? Comment below to share the story of your struggle or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how you’re dealing with it. Spelling and punctuation don’t count, I swear. (See? I’m giving you permission to be imperfect.)