I admit it. I am a recovering perfectionist. It is a learned behavior as I come from a long line of perfectionists. For the longest time, I hated making mistakes. No mistake was small enough to get under my skin. I was my own worst critic.
I used to think trying to be perfect was only about me and my goals, but after getting feedback from co-workers, I learned otherwise. I was making everyone I worked with miserable.
I focused my perfectionism mostly on goals and accomplishments at work, but it doesn't matter if someone is a perfectionist in just one area of life or every part of life; it always has the same impact. As I have helped people overcome perfectionism in many areas of their lives, I can see the causes of and solutions to overcome perfectionism typically follow the same patterns.
Being a perfectionist is a habit. As much unnecessary stress as it caused for me and those around me, the idea of not being a perfectionist was terrifying. It comes from fear, and it may not just be one fear that drives it. There could be many, including fear of failing, criticism, looking bad, or making a mistake.
Whenever I wanted to let go of trying to make something perfect, I would worry about my work. I didn't want to hear the judgments or criticisms. It was a struggle for a long time.
Benefits and Negative Consequences of Perfectionism
Many perfectionists struggle with overcoming this habit because they also recognize the benefits of being a perfectionist (and yes, there are some benefits). Some of the benefits include working hard, being detail-oriented, having high standards, and being very successful.
Yet, most times, the downsides often outweigh the benefits:
Perfectionists are not fun to be around – Who likes to be micromanaged or judged?
Perfectionists create unnecessary stress for themselves and others.
Perfectionists may only see things from their point of view (because it’s perfect, of course).
When someone chooses to overcome perfectionism, they face a constant struggle. Here are four things that have helped me let go of the need to get things perfect every time:
Confronting the Fear
Fear drives perfectionism. One thing that helped me to overcome perfectionism was to imagine the worst thing that could happen from not being perfect. What would happen if I didn't edit that proposal one more time, or missed a minor point in a presentation? Sometimes it was necessary to focus on getting things right. Most of the time, I found, not being perfect was not even be noticed.
Accepting Everyone's Different Priorities
When I think of differing work priorities, I think of my friend Jimmy. Jimmy has a carefree life. He doesn’t work full-time, he never has. When he needs money, he’ll work, and when comfortable, he stops. I often wonder who is smarter, the one who works hard and is stressed or the one that doesn’t and is relaxed. His priorities work for him, and they wouldn't work for me. My style would also not work for him.
Knowing Jimmy taught me a valuable lesson. Not everyone has the same priorities when it comes to working. Not everyone has the same drive and desire to succeed. Some people like to work more, and others prefer to work less. If I lived my life by other people’s priorities, I wouldn’t be happy, and they wouldn't like living by mine. Just because someone has a different set of goals doesn’t mean they are better or worse – they are just different. It is important to appreciate and respect each other's differences.
Embrace Everyone's Different Views and Skill Sets
Often, perfectionists can’t understand if someone doesn’t do things as well or the same way as they do. Hopefully, no one will ever ask me to sing, change a tire, or spend an entire day shopping. I think they would be very disappointed in my ability to do any of that. Everyone has different life experiences and diverse perspectives. Everyone enjoys and excels at different things. Learning to embrace those differences makes everyone happier and more productive.
View Overcoming Perfectionism as a Work in Progress
Letting go of being a perfectionist is NOT easy. It is a continual and regular struggle that takes time. Through constant reminding and practice, anyone can make progress. The important thing is to keep trying and to remember, sometimes good enough IS good enough.
Photo credits: Pixabay