Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Perfectionist - is that good or bad?

I suspect I am a little bit of a perfectionist. During a meltdown last week, a friend (who I trust, a lot) suggested that I am my own worst enemy and that I have perfectionist traits.

This can be a good thing, of course, as well as a bad thing. And this is an issue that has been nagging away at me.

Trying to sort out, in my head, the pros and cons of my apparent perfectionism, and how to address it, has been an interesting head fuck exercise over the past week.

The upsides to this trait, the characteristics that I want to defend to the hilt, are:
  • These "perfectionist" traits have stood me in really good stead for the past 40 years
  • Why settle for mediocrity when you can be really bloody good?
  • If something is worth doing, is it not worth doing well? Properly?
  • I like the feeling of success, it makes me feel wonderful. Hell, I love it.
  • I am recognised, occasionally, for being competent at everything I do, and I love that recognition.
  • I get a lot done and I do it well. I tend to be hugely productive.
  • It makes me feel proud to realise that pretty much everything I ever set out to achieve, I complete. And I complete it well.

But the downsides to perfectionist tendencies:

  • The irrational belief that me and my environment must be perfect - this is unrealistic and exhausting.
  • This "striving to be the best", to reach the ideal and to never make a mistake - this is simply too much pressure.
  • This habit that keeps me constantly alert to the imperfections, failings, and weakness in myself - is this just plain arrogant?
  • The  level of consciousness that keeps me ever vigilant to any deviations from the norm, the "rules" or the way things are "supposed to be" - this is so tiring all the time, and more than a little obsessive.
  • The underlying motive present in the fear of failure, and fear of rejection: if I am not perfect I will fail and I might be rejected by others. This is just sad.
  • It is an inhibiting factor that keeps me from making a commitment to change habitual, unproductive behavior out of fear of not making the change "good enough" - this is interesting......you see where I am going with this?

As I mentioned, this issue has been nagging away at me. Picking at my brain, but I have simply not been able to gain any clarity on it all. I can hear some bells tinkling, but I cannot see the wood for the trees and I almost do not want to face analysing this because I am so up against it and in the middle of it all. I feel like I need a total brain declutter.

Again, the thoughts are crowding my head so much that I cannot dissemble them, but they scare me and I cannot get rid of them either.

But, it feels better to have bullet pointed all the scrambled thoughts, so thank you for
indulging me in my homespun therapy of self.........


  1. It's amazing how much stress that annoying little voice adds to your life. I speak from experience.

  2. I have always ALWAYS been the same way. It can be a bit exasperating, can't it? Especially when, of course, we start to figure out how to embrace imperfection ... perfectly.
    A wicked cycle.
    If you figure anything out PLEASE let me know!

  3. I hear you Lucy, hope you're feeling abit more clear minded after blogging it out x

  4. I once read that rather than striving for perfection we should aim for excellence. There's a big difference between the flawless perfection and the damned excellent. Not being a perfectionist still means doing what you can to the best of your ability, but not killing yourself trying to do it. It means sorting through what can be done to 'good enough' and what needs that extra effort. I've been trying to do this, failing sometimes, but succeeding most of the time. Good luck - it's a strange journey this life isn't it?

  5. Keep plugging away and don't be afraid to address it, Lucy. You will get to the bottom of it and feel such relief. I look forward to hearing how you're getting on.

  6. Google Enneagram and read about Type 1's. Might help. Sounds just like you.

    I'm going to have a little lie down now, you just wore me out thinking about having to be perfect! lol ;)

  7. I think being a perfectionist is exactly what you described -- a double-edged sword. It can make you strive to do better, or completely inhibit you from moving on to the next thing.

    I think the important thing to focus on is what your potential is, what your parameters are. Trying to do things to the best of your ability is a bit different than trying to meet/exceed the best of anyone else's ability. That could be a bit maddening.

    There's a sort of perfection in imperfection--a certain beauty and character in it. To be able to say you did something to the best of your ability doesn't mean a certain part of it is failure, it means you were bold and left your mark on the word, in your own Lucy way. Be proud of that.

  8. I think it's a bad thing. You can still achieve goals without perfectionism, however when the goal is to achieve perfectionism you never well.

    But when you figure out how to let it go... let me know.

  9. In my humble opinion as long as you are moving forward it is a good thing. When you are paralyzed and unable to act out of fear of it not being good enough, perfect or whatever, it's time to have a chat to a professional.

    From one self judger to another. ;o)

  10. I know exactly what you're talking about.
    Not sympathy, EMPATHY.
    I'm totally stealing those images for myself, because they're that close to home for me.
    Perfectionism is paralyzing sometimes, isn't it?
    Luckily you're still a badass.

  11. I wrote this big long comment with some life coaching stuff and I was on my soap box and it was a big discussion on perfectionism and then I pressed post comment and it didn't save, so I guess that is cyber space's way of telling me to shut the hell up and just sympathise. So here I am both sympathising and empathising ...

  12. Oh, I tell you what I will share with you though. Something I put on my Achieve Beyond Facebook page today. Are you ready? Ok.
    "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." (Winston Churchill). Remember your sensory acuity - look at the result, adjust your approach, continue on your journey, check, adjust, continue, check, adjust, continue ...

    Not sure it helps with your perfectionist conundrum but it might ...
    Oh and you can follow my Facebook Page by searching for Achieve Beyond ... mine is the one with the logo of yellow and red triangles and circles (they are supposed to be people). Perfect hey?!

  13. Yeah I get it...go perfect or go bust.


I am a comment addict. Thank you so much for your words...xx