Do you suffer from perfectionism?

If you’ve ever been for a job interview, you’ve probably been asked the most awful interview question, “what is your biggest weakness?”

At that point you probably want to position yourself in the best possible light so you frantically scramble and try to think of a weakness that’s not too bad.

I’ll confess that years ago when I used to go for job interviews I used to answer that biggest weakness was that I was a perfectionist.

It is a weakness and yet it’s a weakness that is seen as a strength by a lot of people because it shows great attention to detail and quality orientation.

Nowadays though, I would bite my tongue before admitting that trait.

These days, I could safely say I’m a recovering perfectionist but it’s definitely not something I’m in the least bit proud of. It’s something I worked very hard on for a few years and when I see it rearing its head, I reign it back and tell myself the truth.

Perfectionism robs me of living a full and happy life.

Do you think of yourself as a perfectionist?

I love this quote by Julia Cameron: “perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again.”

How do you know if you’re a perfectionist?

You may be a perfectionist if…

  1. you think you’re the only person who can do something exactly right
  2. you don’t even bother to do something unless you can do it 100% perfectly
  3. you never ask for help because that’s a sign of weakness
  4. you’d rather not try than do something badly or failing at it
  5. you tend to notice others’ mistakes before noticing their strengths
  6. other people have called you a control freak

If you’re constantly striving for the elusive perfection, you’re never going to be happy to just be.

Your relationships will suffer and so will your productivity.

Perfectionism has also been related to illnesses such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression and a host of relationship and emotional problems.

As I said, I used to be a fully-fledged perfectionist until I wised up.

I had to learn to let go a little, lower my impossible standards and change my language.

When my twins were born, I realised very quickly that I could either have everything done to my exacting standards and never sleep, or I could relax those standards a bit so that things could still get done, even if not exactly how I would have liked, and actually have a bit of a life.

I also started telling myself, “80% is good enough” and it is. Most things in life are not a matter of life and death and we all need to realize it. I knew this from my years of delegating work to staff but it escaped my home life a bit.

That realization was freedom to me.

Are you aware that if it takes you double the time to “perfect” something when the first half was good enough already? I’ve just spent about 40 minutes writing this article. If I wanted to get it “perfect”, it would take another 40 minutes and nobody would even notice the minor differences.

That trend applies to most things in life and it’s just not worth it.

Are you a perfectionist? Is it something you’re proud of or have you already started seeing the limitations in your life?

PS Gretchen Rubin did a podcast recently on perfectionism which I LOVED. You can listen to it here (it’s episode 126 if you don’t use itunes)

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