The curse of perfectionism…
I used to share the badge of being a perfectionist with such pride. “I know… I am just a perfectionist.” Well, I have finally come to the point where I consider it a character flaw that creates more havoc than value for me.
Only recently have I tied my perfectionist tendencies with my inability to practice moderation. And, just this week have I pondered for the first time the damage of these tendencies.
For me there is a difference between being a perfectionist and pursuing perfection. When I am acting and working as a perfectionist I am dissatisfied unless I achieve perfection, no matter the task. It is a win or lose proposition, an all or nothing feeling of success or failure. My energy is either totally depleted or sky high. How is that any way to sustain anything other than high stress?
Instead, I can still pursue perfection. In other words, I can always give my best effort to do the best I can, stretch myself farther than I thought I could go. Here is the key — how do I choose to respond when I don’t achieve the perfect record, the 100%, the A+ score, or the win? I can choose to go with my natural perfectionist tendency and consider it a total failure. If it is a diet and I blow it, I throw in the towel and binge. If it is a running schedule I am following when I happen to miss a day, I can quit the running routine. My motivation is gone. If it is a program I run and although the participants love it, I know it could have been BETTER, I chastise myself. I carry the disappointment and it carries over into other areas of my life. It’s a vicious downward cycle.
Or, I can begin to try a model of forgiveness, acceptance, and moderation.
Can I actually consider learning moderation this late in life? It has never, ever been a strength in any area of my life — I mean none. I am not good at doing anything slowly or with pace. I am not good at doing anything once. I am not good at ‘dipping my toe into the water’, but I think it is time to try.
I have an executive coaching partner to thank for this revelation. She helped me see the connection between perfectionism and the lack of moderation, which leads to a lack of sustainable achievements. I still set high goals; I still pursue the best, but what she helped me see is the value of stopping the deep dive into punishment before the bottom of the pit. Instead, acknowledge the effort, determine the cause of the misstep, and then move onward and upward.
I believe it is going to lead to some very sustainable changes and achievements!