“I’m a perfectionist.”
These words often get spluttered out in job interviews when you try to answer their question honestly, without leaving yourself looking awful.
It almost has a positive ring to it, doesn’t it?
“I’m a perfectionist…”
You sound like you’re the ideal person to fill that role. The one who will work their butt off to get every tiny detail just right and make the company proud that they hired you. In fact, you’re the kind of person who they’d be crazy NOT to hire, right?
But if you’re a long-suffering perfectionist, you’ll know all too well that it’s not all sunshine and roses.
There are two sides to perfectionism: the positive and the negative.
The good stuff leaves you sounding like a highly ambitious superwoman who could move mountains if she wanted. Yay!
Whilst the bad makes you out to be a nit-picking, nasty, cut-throat, ambitious nightmare of a person…
So which of these is it going to be?
Will your perfectionist tendencies lead you on a path to happiness, success and complete fulfilment?
Or will it keep you trapped, unfulfilled and scrabbling to make anything out of your life?
The positive side of perfectionism
Yes, perfectionism can definitely be a very positive character trait.
It means that you’re the kind of person who doesn’t just BELIEVE that perfection is possible but will move heaven and earth to make that perfection actually happen.
You’re the one with that amazing eye for detail, great energy, and the drive and motivation that will keep you pushing to achieve your dreams, whatever they might be. You’re hyper-organised and able to plan every detail down to the nth degree.
You’re the one who gets noticed. The one who gets promoted. The one who is driven to achieve epic stuff that leaves others astonished. Second-best is never an option for you.
And whenever things don’t go to plan, you’ll keep pushing forward, making those tiny adjustments that get you back onto the right course so you can get exactly where you need to go.
You’re even organised and efficient in both your home and in your business, having various routines, processes and habits on autopilot that help you forget about the dull stuff in life and focus on the important stuff.
Your perfectionism is a powerful tool that can help you achieve great things!
But perfectionism can also be a huge problem
Having said that, your perfectionism does have a darker side. You have higher standards than most people.
This can be a wonderful thing. But your belief that everything can and should be 100% perfect can make your life tougher than it needs to be.
You’ll place greater demands on the world around you, and also on yourself.
You’ll find yourself slaving away for hours over work project just to get those minuscule details just right when most people won’t even care anyway.
You’ll never outsource anything because you believe that no one would ever do it like you. Besides, now isn’t the perfect time to start employing a team- you’re just not ready.
You’ll also find yourself trying to be everything to everyone- mother, entrepreneur, wife, daughter, chef, nurse, teacher, coach, mentor, accountant, star employee, athlete…
Yet you’ll feel like you never quite manage to do any of these things ‘perfectly’ because you just don’t have the time. Naturally, that leaves you feeling like a failure and fighting against time and energy.
Over time, you’ll isolate yourself from friends and family, you’ll lose sight of the bigger picture and those frown lines in your forehead will become more and more permanent.
You’ll push yourself closer to burnout, you’ll start feeling depressed and overwhelmed and even obsessed.
Does this sound familiar?
The internal search for perfection…
Even though we usually think of ‘perfectionism’ as an outward habit, this search for the best can also have an impact inside of us too.
We want to be the best version of ourselves that we can be and don’t tolerate our own weaknesses, vulnerabilities or mistakes.
It becomes all too easy to compare ourselves to those successful, gorgeous, fit, attractive people we see on Instagram and Facebook whose lives seem so much closer to ‘perfection’ than ours.
We see photos of their gorgeous kids, lovely partners, beautiful lives, and lovely homes, feeling the green monster of envy grow inside with every scroll, feeling like failures if we don’t match up to these false ideals.
We’re also more vulnerable to ‘Imposter Syndrome’ when we compare ourselves to that unrealistic idea of ‘perfection’ that we have in our heads or that we see in front of us.
There’s no such thing as perfection!
The problem is, there’s no such thing as perfection.
It doesn’t exist.
You’re wasting both your time and your effort by trying to chase it. You can only ever feel bad about yourself.
You can only ever fail.
And so we often just give up before we’ve even got started. We don’t even give ourselves a chance.
We don’t allow ourselves to show even a trace of weakness, get vulnerable for a moment and try something new. We reject the whole idea of beginners’ mindset because we want to be perfect from day one.
We avoid taking risks, chasing opportunities and reaching out for fear of failure, fear of rejection.
We don’t take that first step towards starting that business we’ve dreamed of for years and working to make it happen because we ‘just need to do a few more hours of research’ or we’re ‘not ready yet’.
We tell ourselves that we could never have a website as awesome as the other entrepreneurs we’ve seen.
Or we don’t know how to write a perfect sales pitch. Or we haven’t yet perfected the perfect coaching programme…
Perfectionism causes us to limit ourselves because we just don’t believe that we could do it, at least not to our own high standards.
Isn’t it better not to try at all than to try and fail?…
So what if we could have the best of both worlds?
What if we could combine all the positives of being perfectionists- the awesome organisation skills, the eye for detail and that inner drive we have to continually improve whilst also softening the negatives?
We could use our perfectionism to fuel ourselves to achieve our full potentials in life and work. We could make our dreams come true. We could take risks, live life to the full and never be afraid of failure.
Here’s how we can do that:
- Be good enough. It’s OK to take risks. It’s OK not to know everything. It’s OK to fail.
- Change the voice in your head. If you get that negative voice in your ear telling you that you’re not good enough, thank it for its advice but tell it that you’re not listening. Over time it will get quieter, I promise.
- Just do it! Getting started with a new project and taking risks is the hardest bit. If you listen to your perfectionist streak, you could just sit around procrastinating forever. So stop brooding and just strike out and do it. You can think of the finer details later.
- Be aware and change your habits. Notice when your perfectionist tendencies are trying to put in an appearance and ask yourself if you could soften them instead.
Yes, your perfectionism can be a strength and a blessing.
But if, and only if you can get it under control and make it work FOR you and not against you.
You’ll achieve amazing things, you’ll become more successful in life and your business and you’ll even surprise yourself.
How could you start using your perfectionism as fuel for success??
AUTHOR: CHARLOTTE WITTS