Perfectionists tend to operate in fear of disapproval from others. Their best is never good enough and they are programmed to find the flaws in their own work. I know that because I am a recovering perfectionist.
‘Perfect is the enemy of good’ – a quotation often attributed to Voltaire who, in fact, said better is the enemy of good. I told you I was a recovering perfectionist – and that, my friends, was a relapse.
I know that if I hadn’t pulled away my perfectionist soother, I wouldn’t have written my book ‘The True You’ (release date; 14 June 2016) because the idea of bearing my views in public fills ‘little’ me with terror. Fortunately, my need to share the techniques that have worked for hundreds of people I have coached over the years triumphed. That’s not to say that writing the work didn’t involve wrestling my perfectionist shadow away from my workspace time and again. I know that my perfectionism is no friend, and I should do my best to banish it from my life. I’m tired of making excuses for why it’s good to have it hanging around. Here are five compelling reasons to kick perfectionism out of your life for good.
- Perfection is entirely subjective.
Most of us who strive for perfection do so principally because we fear what others will think of us. We think that by producing perfection, that minimizes the risk of rejection or ridicule. Yet there are two issues with this perspective. The first is that we will never be able to produce something that we believe is sufficiently perfect if we are in constant fear of rejection. Secondly, we are not able to accurately predict what someone else will regard as perfect because perfection is an entirely subjective concept.
- Perfection is a myth
Perfection is unachievable. It’s like a carrot at the end of a stick. As the writer Rebecca Solnit puts it, ‘so many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible and the fun. Getting started moves us towards ‘good enough’ and away from the unattainable ‘perfect’.
Perfectionism and procrastination are bedfellows. Believing that only perfect is good enough stops us from starting. As the deadline approaches we are gripped by a paralyzing fear that becomes more and more ferocious. By setting a date and making a promise that we’ll only spend 15 minutes planning and plotting our approach, we bring the task closer; making it smaller and less terrifying.
- Perfectionists are not well liked.
Your perfectionism is a pain. Noone wants to invite the perfectionist to the party for fear they’ll judge the party poppers. While you and I know that as perfectionists, we tend to be insecure about our own work – we can give the impression to others that we are actually in judgment of them.
- Perfectionism strangles creativity.
The writer Elizabeth Gilbert says, ‘perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more than a deep existential angst that says, again and again, “I am not good enough and I will never be good enough”.’ Being afraid stops us from thinking big and wide and creatively. Fear is useless because nothing we create is ever beyond criticism. Suck it up and get creative. At some point you just have to start, then finish then get your work out there.
- Perfectionists make lousy leaders.
Leaders who are perfectionists tend to model procrastination, anxiety, disorganization – and last minute preparation. They will either encourage those behaviours among the perfectionist-prone members of their team, or demotivate the action-takers. Either way, it’ll breed discontent.
Don’t let perfectionism get in the way of progress.