I’d like to think of myself as a perfectionist. After all nothing is worth doing if you don’t do it right, right? 🙂 But, I found that being a perfectionist isn’t always about being perfect. We simply strive for it, and perfection changes form based on the steps we take along the way.
Lie #1 Perfectionists waste time on the little details. Cautious and methodical, perfectionist are always on the look out for the best solution. We appear hyper-focused on trivial details because we are seeking how to best solve a problem. The details lie in figuring out “how” once we understand “why.”
My husband and I were trimming a tree this weekend. Both perfectionists, anytime we start on a project together there is always a moment of disagreement on the best way to tackle it. This time, our opponent was a HUGE oak branch laying on our neighbor’s roof. I suggested resting a ladder against our neighbor’s house to trim the branch piece by piece. My husband wanted to cut it as close to the trunk as possible all at once. We spent about five minutes going back and forth when he finally said to me, “if the branch comes down on my head when I’m on a ladder, where do you expect me to go?” Ah-ha! Valid point! Breaking his leg and head were definitely not part of my plan.
Truth: The details that we seem to get caught up in as perfectionists are actually unanswered questions.
Leading us to Lie #2 Perfectionists don’t ask for other’s opinions. We’ve all heard the adage, “it’s my way or the highway.” But, the thing about perfectionists is that we have already run through multiple options in our head before bringing the problem to others. We each have created internal systems that work – for us! We learn from our failures and the failures of others.
My work has always had an analytical component. I excel at reviewing data, breaking it down into smaller chunks and communicating it to business leaders in a way that drives behaviors for optimal performance. I was not always good at it though. I thought explaining the details would make me the expert and others would simply agree and follow my direction. I failed at driving results. When I finally got the courage to ask someone why my suggestions weren’t being taken seriously, I was smacked with the realization that I needed to take other people’s viewpoints into consideration. It didn’t matter if my plan and data were accurate, what mattered was whether or not it was valuable for the people that had to execute the work.
Truth: Perfectionists don’t realize they need other opinions until they fail.
Which leads us to Lie #3 Perfectionists expect everyone to be perfect. Highly competitive, a perfectionist’s goal is a perfect solution. Group think is not in our nature. We cannot ignore biases. We follow a trail until the end even if we end up somewhere completely different than where we intended. It is not that we expect everyone to be perfect, we challenge those around us to think about a problem differently to create the perfect solution.
My daughter is a perfectionist (I’m guessing it runs in the family). I have written before about her ability to set lofty, yet realistic goals. One thing that she always does is ask for opinions – from teachers, me, my husband – people whose opinions she values. She researches YouTube Videos and TED Talks endlessly. She does this so she can make a plan to achieve her goals based on what others learned through a similar situation. The people she talks to and the videos she watches are not to achieve perfection, but to achieve a perfect plan to reach her goal.
Truth: Perfectionist must rely on others to create a perfect plan.
Finally, Lie #4 Perfectionists are stubborn. We will not settle. We are never happy nor satisfied. We are an all or nothing group who seldom delegates because we believe our way is the best way. This lie is somewhat true in that we are relentless in our pursuit of a solution. We will stubbornly pursue a path or a train of thought to it’s conclusion. It can be frustrating for us as well as those around us.
I withdraw from others when I am working through a problem. With the recent Coronavirus quarantine and my furlough from work, I spent hours formulating a plan (you can read about it in this post). I was relentless in my pursuit of a solution to a lack of paycheck and ability to take care of my family. I stubbornly rejected my husband’s narrative of, “it’s going to be ok” because I needed to work through it myself. I was scared and was seeking a way to fight out of the darkness, shame and isolation. But, his relentless pursuit of my well-being gave me the support I needed to start this blog. I am expecting a return to work date this week. I have a launched a writing campaign. I could not have achieved any of these solutions without the bold, stubborn, thick-headiness that my husband and I both possess.
Truth: A Perfectionists stubbornness stems from their need to process information and formulate a plan.
Perfectionist have a desire for excellence. We constantly strive for success rather than allowing our past successes to dictate our future successes. We live for each moment to solve each individual problem. We never want to be just “good enough” because it is a cop-out to finding the best (i.e. perfect solution). The critical component is that our perfect may not look like another person’s perfect….and THAT is a perfect solution in itself.
How do you view perfectionism? Are you a perfectionist? Was this helpful showing a different viewpoint? Let me know in the comments. And, don’t forget to like, share and follow!