Are you a Perfectionist?
Contributor
Written by
Romi Grossberg
March 2016
Contributor
Written by
Romi Grossberg
March 2016


Being a perfectionist can often mean you get stuck or don’t complete tasks because you never feel they are up to your own set of standards. A writer would never press send or publish, a designer would never have their new outfits in a shop, a manager returning to the drawing board again and again rather than giving the official go ahead.

Does this sound like you? Are you a perfectionist?

Did you know there is even a term for this fear? For those that have a genuine fear of imperfection and not being good enough? It is called Atelophobia and it is an anxiety disorder.

As a therapist and ‘Writing from The Source’ workshop facilitator, ‘perfectionism’ is the number one obstacle brought up as getting in the way of completing tasks (procrastination and self doubt are the next two).

People would rather not complete (or even start) new projects than have to deal with failure. Perfectionism unintentionally gets translated in to fear. Rather than holding this as an excuse — it’s a good one I know, isn’t it better to deal with it instead?

So how do we deal with perfectionism?  Well the trick is knowing what it means.

I pose the question to you — what is perfection? What is perfect? If we are all striving toward it, shouldn’t we know what it is? To better understand this, let’s start with a couple of simple questions.

1. Have you ever read the perfect book? I don’t mean a good book, a great book, an amazing, interesting or enthralling book, I mean the perfect book!

Can you name it?

2. Do you own the perfect outfit? Dress, suit, jeans or skirt. Does this outfit always make you feel good? Is this outfit great for that occasion or is it in itself perfect?

Do you see where I am going with this?

‘Perfect,’ the way we see it (or think we see it) does not really exist. It is an illusion that we can spend hours, days or years trying to achieve … and it isn’t real. It is a bit like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

As a former photographer I have followed many a rainbow in the hope of finding this pot, seeing the exact point where the rainbow lands on the ground in a stunning golden glow. After far too many attempts, I now know this is not real.

If we continue to hold on to the illusion of ‘perfection’, we can spend a lifetime feeling like we have failed. So, why are we all striving to reach something that’s not real? Let’s understand it better.

What does perfect mean? What is its actual definition? Here are a few synonyms:

Ideal or great – you can do this. Complete – umm, so finish it. Accurate - check your facts.

Many of the synonyms for perfect are achievable. You know you can do this, right? Great, accurate, complete? You would do this every day without even thinking about it.

If you take the word ‘perfect’ out of being the driver of your work (I’m going to write the perfect blog) or the obstacle (but it will never be ‘perfect’ and get published) that stops you, the possibilities are endless.

Without perfection, what is left? For many the answer is “self-doubt”. If the work is not perfect, then maybe it is not that great either, and then what will people think of me?  

What we are doing here is debunking the myth of perfectionism, taking out the stress and fear, not lowering your standard of work. Self-doubt is perfectionism’s silent partner, the one we don’t really want to talk about. Judgement! We can say proudly “I am a perfectionist” but we would never exclaim proudly to have self-doubt or be afraid of being judged. We fear this makes us sound weak and small.

The problem is we are trying to please everyone. We want everyone to like us. We want everyone to think we are smart. And like finding the pot of gold, it will never happen. We just can’t please everyone and nor should we try. People are different and have different likes and dislikes and different tastes. That is all OK. Accept it.

Look at what you are wearing right now? Why did you choose that particular outfit? Because you thought everyone would like it? Did you dress for comfort? For appropriateness? Because you simply felt like wearing it? Do you think you are being judged for it? Maybe. Does it matter? No. Some people will like what you are wearing, some will not, and many will be indifferent. This is all OK.  

Judgement is part of life and we don’t want to waste too much time worrying about what others think. Do things for yourself. Do them with honesty and integrity. If you do this you don’t need to doubt. Will there be mistakes?  Yes, probably. This is OK too. Learn from them.

Perfect, perfectionism, perfectionist – these are all not real. Know this. Stop wasting your time.

Stop the stressing, stop chasing that pot of gold and just get on with it. Publish your blog, have your new clothes range in your favourite shop and make final decisions. Stop worrying and start doing.

 

Romi Grossberg is a writing therapist, holistic counsellor, facilitator of Writing from The Source workshops and author. ‘Are you a perfectionist?’ is an extract from her upcoming new book, titled ‘The 5-Minute Guide to Emotional Intelligence’ to be released in April 2016. For more information, go to www.romigrossberg.com

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Comments
  • Romi Grossberg

    Loved your comment Laurie, you have some gems in there - "there is a certain anxiety connected to letting go of perfection, but it is far less than the anxiety of perfectionism itself" - so true. This comment reminds me of my 'perfectionist' sister who got anxious just reading my article. And yes some days we are better at it than others but we are heading on the right track x

  • Romi Grossberg

    Thanks 'RYCJ' for your message, yes 'stop worrying and start doing' is a goodie. Sounds so obvious but we do forget that sometimes we just have to do it or nothing happens. Glad you enjoyed the read x

  • Laurie Prim

    I find there is a certain anxiety connected to letting go of perfection, but it is far less than the anxiety of perfectionism itself, and the one I am getting better at living with. Like anything else, some days are better than others, but it's definitely the right direction! Perfectionism shackles. Lightening the hell up liberates! Great post! :)

  • Nice post. By the given definition I'm not a perfectionist, though fair to add it's also fine to admit caring and not caring. I guess we have to care just enough to "get on with it and stop worrying and start doing." Loved that quote. 

  • Romi Grossberg

    Thanks Catherine, (I haven't quite worked out how to reply to your message so am hoping you see this). I love your inner dialogue of "I can not edit what isn't written' - that is a great one to remember and very true. 

  • Hi Romi,

    Thank you so much for posting this. There is nothing more crippling than self doubt and the negative narrative that voices it. I have a friend who spends her career helping women succeed with technology. Her business card reads, "Done is better than perfect." In our case published or posted trumps perfect. I sometimes shut down my critical inner voice by saying, "I can not edit what isn't written."