Freckles & Whimsy

Perfectionism – A Struggle

I’ve been called a perfectionist in the past. I didn’t know what was meant by it or even what I did to prompt the assessment.

Today I read an article from Introvert, Dear about perfectionism in introverts. I was interested to see that it was even broken down to the specific personality types!

The article talked about trying to make everything perfect so that there would be no room for criticism about anything you do.

Sounds about right.

I usually think “If I can do this in just the right way after thinking about every possible outcome, then there will be no need for anyone to change anything and everyone will think I am so good at _______”. I have so many unfinished – even UNSTARTED – projects because I foresee some way that it won’t come out JUST THE WAY I envisioned. It frustrates me and often makes me feel like a failure.

Part of my need to do things perfectly is my misperception that people expect perfection from me. I’m not entirely sure where this came from, but I can remember feeling lots of pressure to perform at a high level for most of my life. Maybe I’ve always been this way.

At any rate, if I think about it I often get complimented on my finished product or performance, even when I can pick out plenty of things that went wrong with what I made or did.

Positive feedback should help me out, right?

Wrong.

I have a very hard time remembering the nice things people have said about me. That is probably why I cherish cards, letters and texts so much. It’s right there in black and white. Proof of what they feel and/or think.

On the other hand, I do often remember the criticism I was given. I tell myself that it helps me grow. Maybe now it does, but for a long time it just made me feel bad while solidifying my ideas of everything that was wrong with me.

I may never be a famous singer, but I never even tried because someone once told me that I had a bad voice. I love to sing, but I cringe at the thought of someone hearing me for fear of the laughter and harsh criticism that are sure to ensue. I may not even be a good singer, but I love it and it makes me happy. It makes me feel good in a way that nothing else can. Singing at the top of my lungs is cathartic, liberating. But it is something that I am so ashamed to love because I believe that I’m bad at it.

I remember in high school being extra critical of myself because I couldn’t kick as high as the other cheerleaders, who no doubt had been gymnasts for most of their lives and/or taken dance prior to joining the cheer squad. I never had dance lessons or gymnastics training, but it didn’t matter. That was the standard I should meet. I bet I would have had more fun had I done my best without comparing myself to the other girls.

My point is: being a perfectionist is really holding me back! I don’t like it!! But, I cannot get that voice out of my head that says “If it’s not perfect, then it’s not good enough”. Good enough. That’s the part that gets me. It may sound like a normal statement to anyone else, but good enough to me sounds like “eh, who cares!?” and therefore, not good enough. Not an acceptable conclusion.

So the dilemma I face is: How do I reframe my thoughts to allow myself to be satisfied with a job well done? Perfection shouldn’t be the goal, but finishing what I start. Or, as is often the case for me, starting something in the first place, and not keeping myself from following through.

Do you struggle with perfectionist tendencies? How have they held you back? How have they helped you? Have you overcome the urge to do everything perfectly? If so, how? I would love to know what your experience has been.

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