If You’re A Perfectionist You’ll Relate To This
Perfectionism, procrastination & how to set yourself up for success
Perfectionism has so many misconceptions around it. It’s widely believed that if you are a perfectionist that you are what’s known as a high achiever, a busy person or even the go to person to spot the devil in the detail. An expert. Perfectionism certainly gives you an eagle eye, but it’s time to learn about how that intense focus actually leads to lower productivity and less of our goals being met.
I am looking at you, fellow perfectionists. The time has finally come to call out the behaviours holding you back and see how you can put a stop to your perfectionism standing in your way.
Perfectionist traits tend to stem from needing to be the best. The best child, the best friend, the best colleague – and let me tell you it’s impossible to be the best at everything, no matter how much you want it or how good you are in your field. This is because if you’re a perfectionist your best is simply not good enough and you will always find a way to rationalise your best effort as a minor success if you didn’t achieve the result you set out to achieve.
Feel seen yet? I know I did when I started this process. It ain’t easy to unpick a lifetime of harmful behaviour and negative self-talk especially if you don’t relate to perfectionism.
Perfectionism isn’t the same as high achieving, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a high achiever. You just need to learn to let go of your notion of result-oriented success and instead learn to love the process of reaching a measurable goal.
Let’s see if you can recognise any of these traits in yourself and perhaps begin to think about how you can begin to untangle yourself from your perfectionist.
Everything you do, make or compete in leaves room for improvement, even when you’re at your limit or operating at your absolute best. You’re constantly striving to do better, but by doing this you pick apart your achievements until there is very little left that you feel proud of. Perfectionism gives you an eye for detail like no other but equally can become a very nasty voice. This voice is also known as Imposter Syndrome, or as I like to call it; your self-doubt gremlin.
So, how can you best this? Firstly check out my article on how I managed to tell my imposter to stop pestering me, secondly ask yourself to step outside of your own shoes for just a minute. If you were speaking to a friend who had just achieved something outstanding, would the first thing you do be to tear it down? Or build that up?
It can feel like a big ship to turn in stormy waters sometimes but, start turning it now. Get uncomfortable congratulating yourself on the achievements you’ve made on your journey to the unrealistic standard you’ve set for yourself.
Fear Of Failure
Are you a fighter? Or a flight-er? I’m a flight-er, which means I double down on the workload and constantly find myself biting off more than I can chew. Good news is I’m working on that and If I can so can you.
When perfectionists encounter fear of failure their instant reaction is to procrastinate, to stay still or to not do at all. This is down to feeling shame, anxiety or complete despair at the thought of criticism. The worst thing us perfectionists to go through is not doing the thing perfectly.
The issue here is that we fail by default because the thing is half-finished, never started or just too late to the party and when this happens it fulfils our self-fulfilling failure prophecy. And so the perfectionism cycle begins again.
Breaking this cycle is sounds easier than it is, but just do the thing. Stop thinking about it, just do it. Start talking about it, start actualising your finish line. Think about failure as an opportunity to try again at doing something you love. It could even be the making of you. The people who succeed are the people who allow themselves to fail but fail well.
Focussed on Results
We love results. Proof. Look – I did the thing that I said I was going to do even though I killed myself getting it. Look how much hell I put myself through to do the impossibly perfect task I set myself. This may be an inwardly facing conversation or an extroverted one but it’s one that perfectionists share.
We like ‘results’. We thrive on having a back catalogue of proof that we can do stuff to an impossible standard. This is problematic though because it takes all the fun out of reaching the goal because the goal is the only focus. When our goal is the only focus our pathway to it feels foggy or cluttered; like looking at a mountain peak in low cloud. We know where we’re going, but how we get there is unclear, making it easy for us to get lost and overwhelmed.
If you, like I have, just stood and stared at your mountain peak then do yourself a favour and plan a route to it. Work your way backwards and start at the beginning and stop starting at the finish line.
What is an unrealistic standard? It is the action of setting yourself an unreasonable goal from the getgo and is not to be confused with high achievers. The difference is that high achievers tend to push themselves further than their goal once the initial measurable goal is met.
We set unrealistic standards for ourselves because we are of the mindset that if we aim high and get there then we won’t feel this way anymore because our hard work will be justified and we won’t need to fear failure again. Sadly, this isn’t how life goes, and actually what we are looking for is approval and recognition from our peers and the people we want to please.
Learn to recognise yourself by learning to set measurable goals. We can aim high but we have to think about how we’re going to get there and it’s almost always baby steps. Break it down, think about how you can measure it. Remember an aim is always where we want to get to an objective is how we get there.
As perfectionists, we are naturally goal orientated which is to our power and detriment. Think about your goal as a set of objectives that need to be measurable. When setting out your objectives think to yourself; how can I measure this, or even is this measurable?
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