Are you a perfectionist?
Have you ever found yourself impaired by your own criticism while trying to accomplish something?
Do you procrastinate instead of doing because you’re afraid of failure?
You waste a lot of time because you want to get every bit of what you do just perfect?
Oh yes, you are a perfectionist.
There’s nothing bad in trying to accomplish something with the best result, or a healthy positive “perfectionism” if you want. But what’s the dark side of the moon?
What’s negative perfectionism?
Negative perfectionism is the tendency of never seeing ourselves and our work as good enough, usually comparing it to some external subject (say, a colleague or a celebrity) or to some idealised standard.
This tendency can originate both from within ourselves and from the world around us. In the first case, we usually find very easy to imagine the end result of what we’re trying to accomplish, but we also bombastically fail to grasp all the nuances and difficulties of the process, underestimating them.
If I’m trying to write an article, as I am doing right now, it is easy for me to think about how the final product should look like. Perfectly structured paragraphs, no typos, a story that makes sense and it’s enjoyable for who’s reading. Right?
I have to force myself to not re-write every sentence 3–4 times, as my mind continuously tries to confront the reality with the ideal article I imagined. This process is frustrating and sometimes causes an actual perfectionism paralysis.
When we incessantly try to reach our idealised perfection we work harder and harder, we do and re-do everything. This “all-or-nothing” mindset, in which we succeed or we fail, can cause workaholism and lead to frustration and burnouts.
It is indeed easier to analyse how external factors can influence you as well.
We are exposed to all kinds of high standards and we try to imitate those we think reached our idea of success. Models, millionaires, celebrities, professional athletes, speakers, writers, YouTubers. They all stand for a model of perfection for someone and we struggle because we keep comparing our life with their life.
Seldom though we take into account all the difficulties and problems our model had to cope with, often comparing only our immediate results with theirs. Again, we focus on the final product, not on the process.
How can you cope with perfectionism?
Take it easy! We are sometimes our harshest judge and we lack vision on the big picture, as we focus too much on the end result. Be gentle with yourself and don’t listen to your inner critic too much.
Done is better than perfect. As you fight towards reaching perfection, you waste a lot of time and energy that you could find a better use for. Just do it.
Stop comparing yourself with others. Or if you do, take into account all obstacles they had to go over to get where they are now.
Focus on the process, not the end result. If you give your best every step of the process, your end result won’t disappoint.