I'm sitting here on a Tuesday morning, with the script to a YouTube video my husband and I filmed last week on the edge of my desk. It was the first video we filmed for our new business, and I had been putting it off for a long time.
I had frantically covered the script in highlights and chicken-scratch notes to prepare. I was so grumpy when we recorded the video, mostly because I was tired. But also because I didn't feel ready enough.
There's a part of me that's always wishing I had more time to perfect things, including how I feel. That's why I have given up on so many personal projects or never started them.
I, like many others, struggle with procrastination due to perfectionism. It sounds innocent enough, but it can be debilitating.
Perfectionism is what happens when you set unrealistic expectations for yourself or others. Psychology Today defines perfectionism as "a trait that makes life an endless report card."
Types of Perfectionism
There are three basic types of perfectionism. I struggle the most with self-oriented and socially-prescribed perfectionism, and it's no fun.
Self-oriented perfectionism places an unhealthy desire to be perfect on yourself.
Other-oriented perfectionism puts unreasonable expectations on others.
Socially-prescribed perfectionism perceives unrealistic expectations of perfection from others.
The Threat of Perfectionism
I've often listed perfectionism as my "biggest weakness" in interviews because I thought it was a quality that benefitted my work performance. But I couldn't have been more wrong.
Perfectionism is associated with so many destructive tendencies. You would never brag to a potential employer that you're more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, risk-aversion, a lack of creativity, toxic comparisons, low self-esteem, or procrastination. But those ugly traits are all associated with perfectionism.
Expecting perfection of yourself or anyone else is only bound to lead to disappointment. You can only strive for something that doesn't exist for so long before you get burnt out!
How to Overcome Perfectionism
If you've been living with perfectionism for a long time, like I have, it doesn't just go away once you know it's a problem. But there are a few things that can help you overcome it. I've listed five actions below that will help you unlearn perfectionistic tendencies:
Stop making unfair comparisons.
Be present in the moment. Spend less time thinking about the past or worrying about the future (easier said than done).
Practice compassionate self-talk. Treat yourself like you'd treat a friend.
Challenge negative judgments of yourself and others.
Accept that, even if something isn't perfect, that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile.
Overcoming perfectionism is so much more than seeing a list of to-dos. It's in the long work of learning what will help, implementing it, and taking those two steps forward and one step back. And, guess what? It won't be perfect!
In case you were wondering, we did finish making our first YouTube video. I still cringe when I watch it because I can't stop criticizing myself, but I'm learning that it's much better to start with mistakes than wait until perfection.
What's one thing you're ready to start?