My continuing battle against perfectionism—Part 1 of ?

Hi, my name is Nathan and I’m a perfectionist. I used to think that perfect was a worthy goal. I was raised with the belief that anything worth doing is worth doing right. Somehow along the way, I fell to the notion that anything less than perfect was unacceptable, wasn’t worth doing at all. Eventually, I started to see that I haven’t followed through on many of my dreams and ambitions. I have started way more plans than I have finished simply because they weren’t coming together as well as I had hope for. I still believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well. But now I am learning to accept less than perfection from myself and others.

I haven’t taken a psychological test

I don’t know that psychology would define me as a perfectionist. I mean, I’ve never been diagnosed. I haven’t taken any psychological test for perfectionism. It’s just something that I sense about myself:

  • I’m a micromanager.
  • I constantly critique.
  • Nothing is ever just plain good enough.
  • I always look at the ways something could be improved.

Perfectionism seems like a good thing. If I want a good grade on a test, shouldn’t I strive for 100%? If good is good, isn’t perfect better? Actually, perfect kind of sucks.

Perfect hurts my self-esteem. I’m never fully satisfied with my work when I only see room for improvement.

Perfect hurts my relationships. Others are disappointed when I’m not satisfied with their accomplishments.

And don’t even get me started on procrastination!

Perfection is ruining my life

Reflecting on my life on occasion, it has been disappointing to see a ton of great ideas that were unfinished simply because I did not follow through on them. Mostly it’s just been a long, slow realization that a desire for perfection has prevented me from finishing so many worthy goals. Maybe I was afraid of others seeing a mediocre product. Maybe I was afraid of failure.

I’m not saying that I’ve totally overcome this struggle. I’m recovering, but I’m not yet recovered.

Yet, I have come to realize that a half-thought idea, or an unfinished project is just a waste of time. An idea never changed the world, execution is required.

I don’t want to get all Nike about it, but more often I need to just do it.

Overcoming perfectionism at work

I have also been extremely frustrated working with super demanding persons, only to realize that I am the same way. However, it was especially disappointing to come to these realizations and try to overcome them, only to be faced with supervisors and managers who were micromanaging perfectionists.

Their demand for nothing less than perfection, was contrary to my newfound epiphany and enlightenment that perfection doesn’t exist. Pursuit of the perfect hinders productivity. It erodes mental health and quality of life.

Eventually there was nothing I could do to combat my supposedly perfect superiors. This and other issues at work urged me to see my doctor. I was shocked when my doctor told me to take a month off work and he put me on drugs. After 30 days, I returned to work to find that conditions there hadn’t changed.

They say a job isn’t worth your health. So I left.

Hopefully you won’t need to go to such lengths to overcome perfectionism at your work. I do not advocate that you do what I did. I told my boss that I did not want to quit—I had to. Most people in this world are not lucky enough to be their own boss. Still, not all managers and supervisors are so difficult to work with.

If you face these struggles, I am sorry. I urge you to seek assistance. You have options. File grievances, plead with your union, talk to an attorney, call the labor board. Know that it will not last forever.

If you are your own worst enemy when it comes to perfectionism, perhaps you can learn from me. In my next post, I’ll share some things that I am doing to move forward against the non-existent target of perfect.

In the meantime, please share how you struggle with perfectionism in the comments below.

 

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Nathan Pierce

    Drinks beer, quit his job, planning to start a brewery. I try to write every week about something in my life relating to my pursuit to start a brewery. Topics include: entrepreneurship, beer, leadership, and productivity.