For many years, I placed a high value on trying to be perfect. I was wearing my perfectionism on my sleeves and parading with it as if it was the ultimate tool to get me anything I want in life.
How did my journey with perfectionism begin?
It all started early on in school, where the one and the only way of measuring how good of a kid I was, was through the grades I had. It was either you give in and play the game of competing and comparing, or you give up on the whole idea. You convince yourself that you will never make it like the others and stop trying to get any better. Few are the ones who fell right in the middle and practiced the so-called art of ‘healthy perfectionism’. If the educational system failed to make us measure our worth beyond our grades, the job market that took over was not of greater consciousness in this regard.
Why are we cheered for being a perfectionist?
You know that question they ask in job interviews ‘What is your greatest weakness?’. Can you guess what trick will do, yes, you know it, ‘PERFECTIONISM’. It resonates like a heavenly melody in the employer’s ears. What it conveys is that you will go above and beyond to deliver high-value results. You will push everyone to meet your high standards: timely and quality deliverables. Sounds good so far, but does it also mean that you stay late at night because you cannot help but check and re-check the report over 100 times? And possibly not admit the actual time you spent on the task? Does it mean that you will beat yourself up when things don’t go as planned? Perfectionism can get you far, but at what cost? Your mental state, your productivity and the companies’ overall interest are at stake.
The cost I paid for indulging in it
As a recovering perfectionist, my journey was all about crafting the perfect plan and executing. Nothing could or should come in the way. With my goal in mind, I would charge like a bull and go for the kill. Things had to be exactly as planned. On several occasions, this has created a high rigidity in completing the tasks, which led to a waste of time and energy. As well as an unnecessary tension when collaborating with others as no one could live up to my standards, neither could I. I had conflicts, and many of my relationships ended. The questions that I ask myself today, ‘Was it worth it?’, ‘Did I enjoy the process?’, ‘What could I tell my younger self?’
pieces of advice i’d give my younger self
My perfectionism and hard work made me reach most of my goals, but it did not come with peace of mind. Today, I am rebuilding my long-time, tamed desire for connection. I am also healing my old self-inflicted wounds of the way I measure my worth. If I could give a few words of advice to my younger self, I would say:
- Pace yourself.
- Reaching a good outcome is cool, but if it means not cooperating with others and putting my high standards first, then you will miss out on the delicious taste of the journey.
- Only compare ‘you’, with your yesterday ‘you’. People are on their journey; you are on yours.
- Try something new. ‘Failures’ in anything you undertake are only lessons that make you grow and expand. In fact, go and practice failure. Go and get yourself embarrassed every day.
- Watch your language what you say to yourself and others. If I happen to ‘fail.’ I will not say ‘I am a failure, but I would rather say ‘I’m disappointed, but it’s okay, maybe I will do better next time. Be kind with your words.
As an ex-pro perfectionist, allow me to ‘save face’ for a moment. I did have the perfect journey because I did see the different edges of it, the moments where I was proud for being a perfectionist, to being ashamed for what was driving me to be so, and now to the lessons I am learning. What is your journey with perfectionism?