Perfectionism is a burden I have to bear. I’m not saying that to sound smug; it really is. Some people probably interpret perfectionism as “having high standards”, and “approximating perfect”. In reality perfectionists set their goals unattainably high, are dissatisfied with anything that isn’t totally perfect, and are often highly stressed people, prone to procrastination. These traits set perfectionists apart from other “high achievers”.
So what makes me a perfectionist rather than a run-of-the-mill high achiever? Well, I have an inner voice which is highly self critical. In fact, like perfectionists everywhere, I am my own worst critic. I rarely get something done to my own standards. I always think I could have, should have done better if only I’d worked harder, longer, started sooner etc.
And I procrastinate. Perfectionists do. This is because I find it really hard to start projects because I want to “get it right”. I find it really difficult to “just do it”.
I am getting better though, at least partly due to my children.
Perfectionism and procrastination are totally at odds with parenthood. Being a parent is all about doing things now, in time, on time and “good enough”. There’s just no point getting things perfect if someone is likely to be sick over it all, or circumstances change to such an extent that what you did becomes irrelevant.
For example I got super-stressed about getting my twins’ Christening outfits perfect for their Christening. I’d tracked down the perfect shoes, beautifully embroidered to perfectly match their outfits (made from my wedding gown). It was touch and go whether they’d be ready on time and I had to constantly chase them down. My inner voice kept telling me that everything would be spoiled if the shoes weren’t ready and it would all be my fault for not starting the preparations sooner.
When the big day came, one of my sons (10 months old) wouldn’t wear the shoes. He just kept taking them off and dropping them anywhere he happened to be. In the end we totally abandoned them!
The world did not end. We had a brilliant day! I realised the shoes were just not important. No-one else knew or cared. I’d spent weeks putting myself through so much to get everything perfect, for absolutely no reason.
If you wrestle with perfectionism, you need to work on changing your negative inner chat. Your inner voice is listened to by your powerful subconscious mind. That means that whatever your inner chat is, becomes self-fulfilling. Negative self talk heaps stress upon you. And the wrong sort of stress is very unhealthy.
Stop it now. Reduce your stress levels. Decide to do something about your perfectionism. It is a choice.
Reframe your inner chat into something more positive. Instead of saying “I’ll never get this done”, try “How can I achieve this?” The second thought is more hopeful and stimulates your subconscious mind to be more creative.
Reframing takes practice. If you find you have difficulty reframing your inner chat at first, just ask yourself, “In a hundred years from now, who’ll care?” It always brings perspective back to my life!