For years, I’ve struggled with perfectionism and I’ve come a long way with a lot of effort. Perfectionism is just so stifling and sometimes crippling. Recently, I had an experience that made me realize perfectionism had crept back in when I wasn’t paying attention. I was looking over a list of home project ideas I had created. This list contains little and big things I want to do around the house, like decorating, organizing, and painting. I add ideas as I think of them. I noticed that many of the ideas had been on the list for a while, and then I wondered to myself why I hadn’t done those yet. Had my tastes changed? Did I want to go in a different direction? No, that wasn’t it, I still liked these ideas and still wanted to do them. That’s when it hit me, I was looking at a list of my favorite ideas, the ones I really wanted to do well, even perfectly.
Perfectionists fear doing something imperfectly. Not wanting to get something wrong can mean never daring to attempt it.
Perfectionists find it painful to work through the unknown. We want to be able to picture steps from beginning to end. We want to be able to work through all the ifs and maybes, and form backup plans. Moving forward without all the details is hard!
Perfectionists wait for the time to do things right. And since life rarely offers nicely bundled packages of time, perfectionists can get stalled in the waiting phase.
Perfectionists operate in the all or nothing mindset. When we do something, we go all in and do it right, or we just avoid it altogether.
At some point, perfectionists need to figure out how to expect less of ourselves without the guilt of not expecting perfection. Because that’s part of it, isn’t it? When we consider doing something less than perfectly, we beat ourselves up. We tell ourselves we are lazy, or incapable, and we convince ourselves we are letting ourselves or others down if don’t do it perfectly. We can be mean to ourselves and push ourselves so far that we self-destruct, and suddenly “all” goes to “nothing”.
Honestly, I’m fighting hard right now to find some kind of middle ground. If you notice, I haven’t blogged in over a week. That’s not to say I’ve run out of ideas. I have a notebook so packed full of things to share, I keep having to add more pages. When I look through it, I get excited about all the things I want to share, but when I try to commit to writing about anything, I get stuck and end up re-writing the list instead of just moving forward. I’m not operating at my best right now and it’s getting to me.
The last few months have been hard. Last October I got shingles the week I returned from vacation. Life picked up pace, and I never had time to breathe, let alone rest and heal. I was still dealing with shingles privately when I broke my foot. Through a series of still-can’t-believe-it-happened events, I didn’t see a specialist until four weeks after the break. The urgent care doctor told me I would probably be healed with 4-6 weeks and I wasn’t healing. The specialist easily spotted that my break was much worse than the urgent care doctor realized and that I needed surgery to repair it. Surgery would require 6-8 more weeks of recovery. I’m the mother of four young children and January is the busiest month of all my businesses, but I haven’t been able to really walk in more than 8 weeks. I hobble around to do what I have to do, but it isn’t easy to do anything. To add to the insanity, 2 weeks ago terrible news broke that is too personal to share yet (I’m still dealing with it and am not ready to talk about it). I’m ready to call Mercy! For months now, I’ve been pushing on and just trying my best but lately it has become harder to even try, because my best hasn’t felt good enough. When things start to feel crazy, I revert back to my perfectionistic ways that I’ve worked so hard to overcome. And then I stall.
You’ll have to excuse my over-sharing. I normally shield my readers from personal things like this. I know that you read my blog for good info and I respect your time. But I do have a message from this that I want to share.
Even though writing today was really hard and I tried to do my best to find any reason to procrastinate, I still wrote. I mean, my email is sitting empty right now … that’s how desperate I was to avoid writing. But I’m not going to let perfectionism win and you shouldn’t either. I’m going to give myself grace. And I’m going to tell myself as many times as I need to hear it that my blog posts have value, even if they aren’t done perfectly. I can still be a good wife, mother, and friend without being perfect.
I will not let fear of failure stop me from trying, because that only guarantees failure.
If you’re a perfectionist like me, you’re not alone. Don’t give up and fall into the “nothing” category. Don’t wait to organize or decorate your home until you can do it perfectly. Take the time to think about what your perfectionism is really doing to you, then take back your life.
Learn to live imperfectly.
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