“I am a perfectionist”, replied the intelligent candidate in response to astute interview question, “what is your weakness?”. How many times you replied like this candidate? Probably, most of the times. Perfectionism is gifted trait but is so immaculate, so flawless that it is identified with huge negative connotation.
Are you perfectionist? Have you ever realized that perfectionism can be your greatest enemy? Have you realized that strive of being perfect takes huge toll on your life and relationships?
Adaptive perfectionism is good to some extent where you are adaptable to your surroundings. The more critical and dangerous is the non-adaptive perfectionism which is hard, rude and brash and is oblivious to the environment.
Nobody is perfect in this world. The beauty of our world lies in its imperfection and randomness. Lets appreciate that.
On the contrary, perfectionist lives in their own “perfect” world. They have two prominent sides of perfectionism; one side is to set relatively much higher standards for themselves. The second deleterious side is to suffer with self doubts, self inflicted pressure of being perfect in every sphere of life.
In extreme cases this transforms into disease, a serious behavioral disorder like OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and anxiety. This mental state also gradually takes toll on the body.
I stumbled upon a study by Dr. Prem S. Fry, Ph.D., research professor at Trinity Western University on perfectionism. It was startling to know from his research that those with high perfectionism scores ran a 51% increased risk of earlier death as compared to participants who had low perfectionism scores. “Perfectionism is a virtue to be extolled definitely,” says Dr. Fry, “But beyond a certain threshold, it backfires and becomes an impediment.” The “impediment” is the critical drawback concerning extreme perfectionists.
Identify the “perfectionist” in you by following signals:
Set much higher standards for themselves
Contrary to your capabilities, you set extremely higher standards for yourself. You struggle to rise to those standards and ends up being short of attaining them. This further raises your stress level.
Struggle to meet the timelines: You struggle to meet the timelines in your quest to be perfect. Its always “perfect or nothing” for you. You forever carry pending work and rue consistently for not getting time to finish it off. There is grievous issue of prioritizing with you.
Find hard to accept others’ point of views: You are so engrossed and convinced with your thoughts that it’s hard for you to accept others’ point of view; or you accept it with a pinch of salt. Your standards are obviously higher and close to ideal in the given circumstances.
Bad delegators: As professionals, you are bad delegators. In order to complete the job with perfection, you tend to do everything yourself, in turn getting overburdened with work.
Focus on negative: You don’t appreciate the 98% success rather rues on 2% of failure. You push upon the same on your colleagues and team. Strive for perfection snatches the happiness of small achievements from you.
Doubt on actions: You are so abrasive in scrutinizing your own actions that it’s difficult for you to take decisions. You chose “perfection” over “speed”.
Unrealistic expectations: You have unrealistic expectations from people around you. You tend to plant your own standards in the minds of other people, thus causing pain, mistrust, and frustration in them.
Like any other obsessive disorder, the primary need is to accept the shortcomings. The flaw, unless identified, can’t be worked upon. I have seen many individuals identifying themselves as “recovering perfectionists” and there is nothing wrong in accepting the fact.
Actions to overcome perfectionism
The following conscious efforts certainly will be smaller steps towards recovery and modest successe will motivate you further for improvement.
Forgive yourself for your defects: Nobody is perfect in every sphere, that’s why the members in “team” complements each other. Your shortcomings remind you of being human. Don’t punish yourself and your well wishers by pushing the cause of perfection too far. Magnifying your shortcomings and ruthless self scrutiny will take you nowhere.
Filter out essentials from non essentials: Every issue doesn’t need your attention. Focus on what is needed and put your energy behind it. It’s better to gain excellence in one task at a time rather than shooting for perfection in multiple tasks.
See the beauty of teamwork: “No one is better than all of us” is the mantra for team work. Work on your strengths to contribute. Let other members pitch in to overcome your shortcomings. Give ears and mind to others’ thoughts.
Excellence vs perfection: Understand excellence and perfection. Excellence is not binary, not black and white unlike perfection. Excellence is your desire to give best at all the times. Perfection is nervous response out of fear of being imperfect. Excellence gives sense of achievement of 98% and strives for 100%. Perfection repents for shortcoming of 2% and loses drive and motivation to attain 100%. Go for excellence not perfection.
Be rational: Accept and recognize the reality. We are not living in perfect world. Be rational in expecting from yourself and people around you. I reiterate; go for excellence.
Learn to fail: Edison learnt to fail consistently during invention of light bulb. He learnt 200 ways by which he couldn’t make light bulb. As aptly said “failure is the stepping stone for success”. Learn to accept mistakes gracefully in front of others. Remember, nobody is perfect but many are blessed with gift of excellence.
Fail fast: Life is a high-risk-high-gain game with learning curve whose cost of failure is proportional to the timing of failure. Faster you fail, faster you learn. You will avoid costly mistakes at the later part of the project.
Take it easy on yourself: Nothing will stop by your brief absence. Take moments out from your busy life to rejuvenate. Don’t overstretch. Pursue your hobbies. Believe me; you will grossly enjoy the imperfection and randomness around you.
There are numerous critical actions, small steps towards excellence. This world is too imperfect to worry for. Imperfections also have a perfect pattern of symmetry. The scheme of things by God is away from our tangible perceptions. The Almighty is perfect and we are mortals of imperfection.
Give yourself a chance now… Don’t wait for the “perfect time”; it will never come.