Overcoming perfectionism

Hi, my name is Nicole and I’m a perfectionist.

I don’t know why I’m a perfectionist, but there’s no doubt that I am one. I have an incessant need to get things right the first time, to be a professional at everything I endeavor to do, and to exert control over all things. If it something is not done the way I want/expect it to be done, I’m not interested. It’s my way or the highway, and my way is nitpicking myself until whatever I’m doing is exactly as it should be.

Perfectionism can certainly be a very positive trait – and until very recently, I only thought if it this way. My perfectionist tendencies make me an incredibly dedicated worker, and ultimately a more successful person because I insist on doing things “right.” It enables me to always be proud of the work I do, from big undertakings at work to small DIY projects around the house.

While it’s true that my perfectionism has made me a more disciplined person, I recently began to realize that sometimes living with this mentality is not only annoying, but inhibiting. I would rather do things in a specific way or not at all – and that’s no way to live. I realized that I’m missing out on a lot of potentially great opportunities because I’m deeply afraid of failure/disappointment – a fear that sits at the root of perfectionism and does more harm than good.

This is why, at the end of December, I decided to sign up for the Get Out of Your Own Way 7-Day Challenge for Perfectionists. Sam Brown over at Smart Twenties designed the challenge to help perfectionists like me get shit done and lose the incessant fear of failure that’s holding us back.

Here’s eight takeaways:

  1. Perfectionism stems from self-doubt and a fear of disappointment or failure. We perfectionists often let the fear of letting others (or ourselves) down keep us from trying new things or being true to who we really are.
  2. For perfectionists, procrastination is a symptom of that fear of disappointment. I never considered myself to be a procrastinator because I’ve never been lazy with my work. By colluding procrastination with laziness, I failed to realize that I actually am putting things off – not because I am lazy or unmotivated, but because I’m afraid of doing them inadequately.
  3. Expecting, or even insisting on a particular result can be damaging. You’ll end up disappointed if you have tunnel-vision expectations. Instead of focusing on what you think the outcome of something should look like, take more time to enjoy and learn from the process. That is where true ingenuity grows.
  4. There are so many areas of my life that I want to work on that I often feel overwhelmed and abandon all of them, for fear that I cannot give them the proper attention. A perfectionist will often let self-doubt steal away their motivation. Try focusing on one goal at a time and resolving yourself to make a habit of working towards that goal.
  5. The only way to reach your full potential is to do. You have to put in the work if you want something. Even if it is not done perfectly every time, you will not achieve anything without taking the time to sit down and do it.
  6. Let go of the fear of making mistakes. Humans learn from mistakes. It is the only way you will improve at anything. In the same breath, giving up is the worst thing a perfectionist can do. Perfectionists will often abandon an endeavor after a period of committed effort due to our “all-or-nothing” attitude. If we become scared that our best won’t be good enough, disappointment is guaranteed.
  7. You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather. Perfectionists are great planners but we tend to get stuck in the planning phase and become overwhelmed by the pressure to stick to the plan.
  8. Track your excuses. I guarantee if you take the time to write down your excuse for not doing something, you’ll realize it’s not as sound as you thought.

I’ll end this post on number 8, because the perfectionist in me wanted to get to 10. Baby steps, my fellow perfectionists, baby steps.

For more information on the perfectionist challenge and more advice for perfectionists, head over to smart-twenties.com!

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