Give up Perfectionism. No way, you say! Everything must be just so, the best, perfect. After all, it’s probably served you well in the past, and perfect has its place. Besides, what will happen if it’s not perfect?
This is something some of my clients wrestle with. And, I’m going to come clean and include myself there. Actually I never really thought I was squarely in that boat, or at least that it wasn’t that obvious to others. This past Sunday after church, I had a conversation with our priest, and she said to me, “You need to give up having to be perfect.” Whoa! Back to working on imperfect!
Truth be told, I had already realized this about myself and thought I’d been making progress to move from this. And, I have. I know where my perfectionism comes from and when it crops up. I know what needs to be perfect and what doesn’t, though I do struggle with it on occasion. Perfectionism has its good points. It can also become a dead end. Here are some things it can lead to:
1. Procrastination and/or indecision. If you need everything to be perfect, you wait for the best solution or the right time. You don’t want to miss it, so you wait and wait.
2. Missing the big picture because you are focusing on the details. It’s like missing the forest for all the trees.
3. Loss of creativity. I think this one is tied into procrastination, because you want perfect results so you put it off. You don’t have “failed creative efforts.” And, of course if you did, they could lead to growth. (Ironically, growth is one of the reasons people want to be perfect.)
4. Perfectionism in the extreme can lead to depression and alienation of relationships.
So how do you work on becoming a recovering perfectionist? Here are some tips to try:
1. Be aware of why you are a perfectionist and recognize when it rears its head. Know whether it’s good perfectionism or obsessive perfectionism. I think that’s often half the battle.
2. Ask yourself, “What will happen if it’s not perfect?” or even, “What will happen if I don’t have to do it perfectly?”
3. Aim for good enough. I have two signs in my office. One says “Good enough is good enough.” The other says, “Progress, not perfection.” It’s not license to slack off, it’s license to finish.
4. Look at the big picture, i.e., look at the forest not the trees. Prioritize to figure out if all the trees, aka tasks, are necessary to fill in the big picture. If not, get rid of that tree.
5. Learn how to delegate. Once you do this and begin to have faith in other people’s abilities, it becomes easier to delegate. You don’t have to do it all to be perfect. And, it may not be perfect to your way of thinking, but it will be done.
6. Just once, set a goal to do something poorly. What a concept! This is really freeing. Imagine being perfectly imperfect!
7. Celebrate. My clients know I like to have a weekly Success and Strategies Summit. If you’ve managed to let go of some of your perfectionist tendencies, celebrate it as a success.
I love quotes and searched for the perfect (!) quote on perfectionism. In the end, I decided to share the words from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, from her book Bird by Bird:
Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism,
while messes are the artist’s true friend.
Are you a perfectionist or a recovering perfectionist? Please share your thoughts below.