Myths That Keep You Trapped In Perfectionism (Part Two)
Perfectionists not only have unrealistically demanding goals and standards, they also constantly drive themselves in an attempt to meet them. As a reformed perfectionist, I understand the desire to “do things right,” to be highly critical of both your own work and that of others. Your high standards motivate you to tweak everything until it is just right. However, I also see the other side of perfectionism, in which the obsession can cause undue stress and strain on your life, affecting personal and professional relationships alike.
Perfectionists or not, many of us find ourselves to be our own worst critics. The perfectionist simply takes this to an entirely different level, allowing it to become the fuel that feeds the fire of their own overly analytical habits.
In yesterday’s blog post we looked at the two of the common myths of perfection. In this post, I will examine two more myths.
Myth #3: Perfectionists Can Do It All
As a perfectionist, it is easy to believe that you can do each and every part of a project better than anybody else—even that it is easier to do it all yourself, rather than to let someone else make what will certainly be a half-baked attempt at their piece of the pie. You might even prefer the thought, if you are forced to work with others, of not turning in a project at all—rather than turning it in with less than perfect work.
The amount of pressure this puts on you will often backfire. Its inherent inaccuracy aside, this is the sort of idea which leads to depression, anxiety, writer’s block, performance issues, and social alienation. In essence, your perfectionism can sabotage your own efforts on any given project, and even your overall success.
Myth #4: Perfectionism Prevents You From Making Mistakes
One of the most common beliefs concerning perfectionism is that it leads you to put so much time, attention, and detail into your work that you feel as though all of the bases must have been covered. You feel like it’s almost impossible that you might have made a mistake, missed an error, or otherwise fallen short. When you have invested your time and energy agonizing over even the minutest details, it becomes hard to accept that something may have been overlooked. This can lead you to the point where you become unable to acknowledge any flaws in your final work.
It is also a classic case of counter-productivity. All the time spent improving the smallest details results in other projects getting neglected. Then the pressure of trying to meet all of the deadlines leads to more stress and frustration.
These myths of perfectionism are what I turned to over the years when colleagues, friends, and family tried to hint that maybe I needed to lighten up, or perhaps open up to other ways of getting things done. These beliefs comforted me, and seemed to validate my behavior—but I found myself in a position, ultimately, where even I could no longer deny that my relationships were strained, that my stress and anxiety had become more than I could manage.
Once I was able to recognize my fear of disapproval and rejection, I was able to look at my own habits in a new light. I began to see that opinion was not directly linked to judgment. I learned that a mistake that was pointed out was not a personal attack. It took time, and I had a few relapses—mostly while trying to turn in perfectly high-quality work, which had not been overworked to my previous standards. Eventually, I was able to adopt more reasonable standards and take back my life. Having done this, I can honestly say that I am happier and healthier.
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