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Perfectionists are Awesome – and Awful

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Perfectionists are slow and expensive.
That’s what it said, right there in my inbox. And my first thought was “Now, that’s just mean! Why would you say this?”

But when you think about it, it’s actually kind of true. Sure, it depends on what tasks we’re talking about.
But generally speaking, perfectionists spend a lot of time, effort, and potentially money to get everything just right.

The perfectionist’s curse

I also read that perfectionism is about feeling insecure and the fear of getting judged. The person who said this probably wasn’t a perfectionist.
Or I “suffer” from a different type of perfectionism.

Although the fear of judgment can be scary for some people, most of us just can’t help being a perfectionist.
Imagine how freeing it would be if you weren’t so detail-oriented and you just didn’t see the errors and imperfections.

It’s not like we obsess on purpose.
Once you saw something that’s slightly off… you can’t unsee it.

So what can you do?

What can you do? Keep it flawed for the whole world to see, having people wonder if you can’t pay attention?

I mean, a difference of 0.005% between two colors is massive, right?
People could think your colorblind because this one shade of blue is not exactly like the other shade of blue.
Well, guess what: They probably wouldn’t notice because 0.005% is ridiculous…

And although this may sound like a fear of judgment, it’s more about personal integrity and wanting to do things “right”.

I can’t even tell you how much time I’ve wasted moving stuff around pixel by pixel. Sometimes ending up moving it back to where it was 2 hours earlier.
All the while being totally aware that I should just let it go. It’s already fine so just leave it alone.

Done is better than perfect

Sheryl Sandberg

But there’s this little voice inside your head pushing you to make it better. And again, for me, it’s not about what others will think of me.
It’s what I think. And I believe you should do your best at all times (and I’m working on bringing this down to “when it matters”).

You know, in most cases, other people won’t even see the difference. Because they are not as obsessed as you are.

They’re not thinking that your thing might be better if you spent 10 more hours to make it just the tiniest bit bluer.

Fear of mistakes: Don't beat yourself up over nothing - be more confident

Quality matters

The wonderful thing about perfectionism is that we truly care about quality. We hold ourselves (and others) to very high standards and we provide excellent work.

And that’s very helpful and valuable.
If someone hit you over the head today and you woke up tomorrow as a non-perfectionist that wouldn’t be a good thing.

There are jobs and tasks where you really want a perfectionist to handle things.
Someone who won’t rest until everything’s in order. And beautiful. And who delivers great results.

There is a difference between obsessive perfectionism and taking time to create something that is the best you can offer. Knowing what needs to be better and stretching to improve yourself is what separates the mediocre from the marvellous.

Suzanna Reeves

But don’t overdo it

You see, my perfectionist friends, the harsh truth comes down to this: Perfectionists are slow and expensive. And that’s perfectly fine (haha) when pristine quality is needed.

But maybe your internal presentation about X doesn’t have to be perfect.
Maybe your first draft or layout can actually be bad and ugly.
Possibly the memo about the coffee machine doesn’t have to be state-of-the-art drop-dead gorgeous.

And maybe you could write your regular emails and just hit send instead of going over them 5 times to improve them…
I’m definitely working on this. Do as I say not as I do, right?

Being a perfectionist is something I love about myself while it’s also driving me crazy. That’s why people use it as a fake flaw in job interviews – because it’s both good and bad.

I’m totally aware when I get stuck in “tweaking mode” for things that don’t deserve this kind of attention.

It’s such a waste of time. Not to be confused with procrastination, though.
I won’t lie, letting go of unnecessary perfectionism is a struggle.
But the first step is awareness. It starts with your ability to see which tasks you don’t need to obsess about.

Perfectioninsts: Learn to do less

Choose your perfectionist battles wisely

You’re probably not a perfectionist about everything in your life or you wouldn’t get anything done (I’m obviously not talking about compulsions here).

Just plain old perfectionists who can work on themselves and allow their quality to be selectively a little worse – and make their lives better in the process.

A perfectionist’s nightmare

I listen to a podcast that hasn’t changed over the years. It has no intro music and the sound quality is just okay. The host basically just talks into her phone. And in almost every episode you can hear dogs bark, roosters crow, or cats meow.

She also doesn’t try to make her voice engaging and if she goes off-track, it stays in the episode. It truly sounds like she sits down, starts talking into her phone, and then uploads the episode when she’s done talking.

But you know what? I still listen to her. What she has to say is more important to me than how it is delivered.

Could I ever do something with that kind of quality? I doubt it.
It would make me feel awful because I know that it’s not the best I can do.
And that’s the whole struggle. To know when great quality is necessary and when you’re wasting 10 hours for nothing.

Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you got, and fix it along the way…

Paul Arden

Often, good is enough. And I am totally aware that perfect doesn’t exist. So when I talk about perfectionism, I just mean making it as great as you can possibly can.

Not everything needs to be great. And if you “settle” for good (where good is enough) you’ll have more time for what really matters!

Some may say then you’re not really a perfectionist but someone who strives for excellence. Well, that’s just words and I’d still identify as a perfectionist. A recovering perfectionist!

So what do you think? How do you identify? And will you dare to lower your standards for the “not so important” tasks?

Have a wonderful, imperfect day,

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