If you're a perfectionist, you likely know it.

I’m going to share a quote with you from a book called the Artist’s Way by Jennifer Cameron. She says,

Perfectionism isn't a quest for the best. Perfectionism is a pursuit of what's the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we will do we could ever do, would ever be good enough to talk about perfectionism for a moment and where it comes from, specifically in women.” 

The idea of perfectionism is that there is a finish line when actually, there really is no finish line. Perfectionism truly is unrealistic. There's not really any goal, which can be accomplished perfectly. Because there are probably a lot of places where 80% will do. 

In this post, I am going to diagnose perfectionism, and what this looks like from a behaviour pattern. Then I’ll give you some things to think about if you think that you're struggling with perfectionism.

First, I am going to share a quick self-assessment.  The idea is to self-assess and to see if perfectionism might be an issue for you. I want you to think of these questions and when you answer them, I want you to answer them on a scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. 

  1. I often feel weighed down by my goals, and feel fear, as I work on them that I won't succeed. Is there a fear that's running you that's telling you, you won't succeed? 
  2. Do you procrastinate and wait for the perfect moment to do something? 
  3. Do you often feel disappointed by what you have achieved? And regularly? It's not enough? Do you feel disappointed by what you have achieved? 
  4. Do you obsess over tiny mistakes at the expense of more important priorities? 
  5. Do you neglect other things in life that are important for work? So in other words, do you place work in front of other things?
  6. Do you hate to fail at anything?
  7. Do you ruminate over things that happened a long time ago?
  8. Do you get stuck in analysis paralysis as you try to figure out the perfect way to do things? 

Perfectionism looks like: being very driven, and really focused on results. It's a very task-oriented style of leadership. Performance standards tend to be set so high causing performance-especially with the team and even for yourself- to be very stressful, where people think, “I don't even think that I can succeed in this environment, I think I might be set up for failure.” These demanding performance standards can really burn you and the team out.

What  I see in the women that I coach are two different types of perfectionists: 

The excellence seeking perfectionist, which is a high standard, like excessively high standard type “We need excellence.” I've had so many people say, “I want to be the best.” So as soon as you hear language like that, you're thinking, “Okay, there's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be the best. But is that attainable?”. I definitely see that that's a style of excellence seeking perfection. 

The failure avoidant perfectionist. This manifests in two very different types of behaviour. When your failure is avoidant, or risk, avoidant, as a perfectionist, there is an obsessive concern with failure, with avoidance of wanting to take any risks because of an inherent fear of failure. Reaching high-performance standards, “I'm worried that I won't be able to reach it, therefore, I'm not going to try.” Failure, avoidant perfectionists are constantly worried that their work is not quite right, it's not good enough. The bottom line here is that a lot of perfectionist tendencies are rooted in fear and insecurity. 

What can you do about it?

Identifying triggers I would also encourage you to spend some time really thinking about what triggers you as a perfectionist? Where do you find yourself going to that place? Is it with certain people? Is it certain times of the day? Is it certain projects, I know some perfectionists when they get asked to do work by certain people who might be more senior than them, that's when things start to flare up. 

Ask yourself, is “done” better than perfect? Where are there times this week where 80% could be good enough? So that's where you start to flip the switch, you need to try a new pattern of behaviours of letting go of perfectionism as what you're aiming for, then you need to be able to reflect on what happened when you did. 

Ruminating vs. problem-solving. Ruminating to me is when you're twisting and turning. And you're living in the past, it's anxiety-provoking, you're stuck, you're not able to move forward, versus being able to be solutions-oriented and look towards the future. You might need to find a way to break the rumination cycle. I would say don't go it alone. If you feel like you're really struggling with perfectionism and your bar is set really high, working with a coach is a really great way to help you undo some of those deeply embedded patterns. 

Seek feedback. I would encourage you to seek feedback, and invite somebody into your world. You need to build a support system around you if you're going to learn to let it go. Thinking about your team, who do you have that you can lean on? What are things that you just need to let go of, because even though they might be a great idea, they might not be the best use of you. 

Hopefully, you got a little bit of insight today into what perfectionism is, the barriers associated with it, and some strategies about how to let it go.

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