perfectionist at desk

Are you a perfectionist?  I know I am.

Everything I do has to be right.  If it’s not then I would keep tweaking and rewriting until I felt it was perfect. What I did not realise was that with every change I made resulted in a good piece of work becoming a little bit worse.  Things I thought were perfect ended up being far from it.

What drives perfectionist behaviour

The main driver of a perfectionist is one simple and basic emotion.  It is fear.

Perfectionists have an innate fear of failing.  They fear people seeing them as less than they value themselves.  Quite often they are not aware of what they are doing, only that they need to always deliver perfection.

This leads to various issues including

  • Procrastination;
  • Not delivering the results;
  • Delivering work that is technically perfect but has no personality to it;
  • Potential work and life issues for the perfectionist.

How to identify a perfectionist

Perfectionists tend to show some of the following behaviours:

  • Have an all or nothing attitude, if they can’t do it all then it’s best to do nothing;
  • Difficulty in delegating work;
  • Very high standards for themselves and others;
  • Procrastination;
  • Concentrating on the small details, and missing the big picture;
  • Have a set way of doing things, and does not like to deviate from this;
  • Punish themselves when they do not get the results they think they should;
  • Always look for mistakes, and are very critical when they occur;
  • Are unable to accept and celebrate their success;
  • Avoid taking on challenging work so they do not fail.

How many people do you know that fall on this list?  Do you fall on the list?

Potential implications for a perfectionist

You may think to yourself, “I’m a perfectionist, so what, it doesn’t hurt”.

You would be wrong to think this.

There is a range of impacts from being a perfectionist.  These include

  • Missing deadlines to get the work perfect;
  • Being too demanding of other people, resulting in people leaving you;
  • Missing the big picture due to focussing too much on the details;
  • Procrastination, always putting off what challenges you;
  • Unhappiness, that can lead to depression;
  • Disregard for your health, as your goals take priority;
  • Find it difficult to let go, as you want to maintain control of everything.

Looking at this list you can see the major impact perfectionism can have on you.  It not only affects your work but reaches into every aspect of your life.

Your health will suffer.  You will not be happy.  People will be leaving your life.

What can I do

There are a lot of things you can do to address this.  The two that I prefer are “stop it now” and “Good enough for now”.

Stop it now

This is a simple statement, but that does not mean it is easy to do.  You need to change your behaviour, and that is always a challenge.

Stopping something does not need to be hard.  For simple things, like being too hard on yourself, then just stop it.  Every time you feel it happening take a breathe, let it go and move on.

For other areas rather than stopping something, you may wish to change the way you react.  Some actions you can take include;

  • Forgive yourself for making mistakes;
  • Accept that you have failings, and look for people who can help you;
  • People are imperfect, acknowledge that and move on;
  • Set realistic goals, including time frames;
  • Reward yourself for progress rather than completion, even when progress is slight;
  • Don’t try to be the best, the brightest or the star performer.  Life is not about competition but collaboration;
  • Be flexible, and be change plans when circumstances change;
  • Journal daily, noting your successes, and use this to make a 3 – 5 item task list for the following day.

Remember, you do not do all these at once.  That is a recipe for failure.  Pick two and start on them.  After two weeks, when you feel these are comfortable you can then add another one.  Keep doing this until the list is empty.

You need to start doing these now.  Do not wait until you have the perfect plan.  Do not wait until you have thought it through.  Pick two now.  Write them down somewhere that you will see them every day.  Read them every day and then do it.

Good enough for now

Another strategy is to remind yourself that something is “good enough for now”.

Accept that it is not perfect.  Accept that you could improve it.  Then push back on yourself.  Publish it.  Put it out there.  Start getting feedback.

The feedback may not be what you want.  So what!  Is a bit of negative feedback going to kill you?  Is negative feedback going to destroy your life?

Absolutely not.

Look at the feedback and tell yourself “these people care enough to give me some more knowledge”.  View the feedback as a learning opportunity.  You can take the information they provide, research a little bit, and then use that to improve your work

Guess what.  You are now collaborating.  You are no longer an island, you are part of the world.

Will this be hard?  Yes.  Will this be worth it? Yes.

Once you open up to the wider world you will start to grow.  After doing this a few times you will start to feel more confident.  Your stress levels will drop.  You’ll feel more relaxed about releasing your work.

Give this strategy a try.  Give it time to gain momentum.  Be open-minded.  Look for the positive in feedback.  Collaboration will help you towards the results you deserve.

Summary

Perfectionism is driven by fear.  Once you understand the fear and start to take steps to address it your personal growth will take off.

Perfectionism is a negative action and mindset.  Focus on the positive and things will change.

The two best ways to achieve this are “stop it now” and “Good enough for now”.  Once you start down this path the results will flood in.

 

Contact Garry to help with your struggle with Perfectionism.  Email Garry – garry@nextactions.com.au or nextactions.com.au

 

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Also published on Medium.