I remember a time when I thought it was cool to ‘confess’ I had a perfectionist streak. Like I was some perfect ballerina princess in her pink twinkly castle who would only be satisfied when something was 100% as I wanted it and everyone would approve and clap and go YAAAY.
Now with clients I can often hear myself saying things like perfectionism is the height of insanity, being perfect is just another form of procrastination and perfectionists have no standards. Ouch.
My ‘tendency’ tends to rear its head towards things I value. There is no perfectionism issues when it comes to cleaning my car (quick drive when it’s raining does the trick doesn’t it?) or ironing my clothes (love cheap dry cleaners) however recently when it came to finding the perfect couch it took me two years! I am not kidding. And guess what, it’s not perfect! Obviously this goes much further than material things – relationships, careers and health are all affected by perfectionism.
So. Newsflash. At the end of the day aiming to get something completely 100% perfect is just not possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love creating a stretch target or two but when the goal has an ever increasing ‘perfect-o-meter’ you’re setting yourself up for failure. And quite often on purpose. Scary.
Falling victim to perfectionism can also mean you wait for exactly the right time, for all the ducks to be lined up in a row before you make your move. But the damn ducks will never line up quite right and time will pass and you have missed an opportunity that may never come around again.
Reality check. Sorry it’s brutal. When acting in a perfectionist mode you are demonstrating your need to be in control of everything. This usually comes from a fear of not being good enough, not belonging and not being loved.
So here’s some questions to ask yourself – some based on work by Dr Phil (yes another fave).
- Who are you trying to control? Often people who are trying to control external chaos are in actual fact attempting to control their own chaos.
- What is driving your need for perfectionism? What are you afraid of if you don’t control everything? Are you worried about what people will think about you if you don’t keep up this perfect façade?
- Consider how it feels to be around you when you are in perfect pants mode. If you have children they may feel like they will never be good enough and consequently you are passing on your perfectionist tendencies to them. Ever had a perfectionist boss? No matter what you do, it is never quite enough.
- What are you getting from being a perfectionist? Do you get to excuse yourself from committing to something you’re passionate about for fear of not getting it ‘right’?
- How much energy are you using in attempting to control your world? It’s exhausting right. At some point you need to trust your universe enough to say I am comfortable to let this go and let it be as it will be.
- Be rational. What happens if you let go of controlling others? Nothing. Because deep down you know it’s not possible to control the world. You are not Dr. Evil from Austin Powers people!
The best way to give up your perfectionist streak is through acknowledging what fear you are feeding and then you make a choice. You can either try to control everything and everyone (good luck!) or focus on what YOU really want. Rather than consuming energy with controlling, focus on all the good qualities within you. Your desire to live life to the full, to learn and grow, focusing on appreciation, your courage, love, tenacity or determination to succeed. Give yourself the permission to let go of your perfectionism – as cool as it sounded when you were 14 and I’ll think you’ll find it a lot more rewarding.