I'm a pefectionist actually, yes um see for me it's got to be the best or there's nothing at all.
Spud's job interview, Trainspotting
I've struggled with perfectionism; being late in submitting work, never sharing something and putting it all under the banner of perfectionism.
We believe that perfectionism is an overplayed strength - a sign of us wanting to create high-quality work. Taking the time to produce it or not sharing if it doesn't meet our high standards.
Perfectionism is all about fear
Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we lug around hoping that it will protect us, when in fact it's the thing that's really preventing us from being seen
Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
The imagery of this definition of perfectionism resonates strongly with me.
I've been afraid of what others might think, of negative judgement and being found out to be a fraud. Those endless redrafts, extra research or re-reading my drafts are not about quality, but fear of failure.
I've missed opportunities through self-censorship, inaction or delay. The fears multiply where each delay compounds the expectations of quality and, consequently, the fear of failure.
Thinking of perfectionism in terms of quality prevents us from breaking free and seeing the real reasons for our hesitancy.
How to break the perfectionist cycle
Exposing the perfectionism shame gremlin to the light is a big step towards breaking free.
I still have my doubts, but I try to stop and notice what is happening and explore its reasons. Am I procrastinating or holding onto something because I'm afraid?
Three things that help me deal with perfectionism are:
- Power in collaboration. The first draft or proposal is the most difficult. Sharing with others early enables early feedback and ideas.
2. What's my next action? When I can't even start something, I'll spend five minutes jotting down thoughts, which can provide hooks for the next steps.
3. What is enough? I change my perspective from looking for approval to thinking about what is good enough.
Remember, perfectionism is the armour we put on to protect us, but it often does the opposite. Recognising what's going on can help us to break free and shine.