Did you know that being a perfectionist is a sign of low self-esteem? You might think that it’s all about being the best at what you do, but the truth is, it’s more about feelings of not being perfect. When you have low self-esteem, perfectionism can be a shield you use to protect yourself – by having to be perfect, you give yourself permission to not feel bad when you’re not perfect.
Confusing, isn’t it? What most people see as a positive trait is really the avoidance of something negative.
Why you don’t want to be a perfectionist
Being a perfectionist can have a lot of disadvantages:
- It creates a lot of stress. When there’s only one way to be successful at something, there’s no room for error. Perfectionists aren’t happy people. There’s a constant anxiety that can can’t be completely satisfied.
- You waste a lot of time. Some things don’t require a high level of attention. To spend more time than necessary is a waste of an important resource: your time. If success is important to you, allocating your time wisely is an important consideration.
- You lose sight of the big picture. Bogging yourself down with trivial details can limit your awareness of the bigger objective.
- You’re never happy with your results. You might be satisfied, but you’re never happy.
As you can see from this short list, being a perfectionist has a negative effect on both productivity and motivation.
So, are you seeing yourself in the description so far? Here are a few more signs you might be a perfectionist.
You might be a perfectionist if:
- You take things too far. No matter what you do, you take it to the limit. Everything has to be done as well as possible, whether it’s folding the laundry, parking the car, or doing something more meaningful.
- You procrastinate excessively. The need to be perfect creates anxiety and makes it hard to get started. You know you’re in for a lot of work and self-induced drama. Under those circumstances, anyone would be hesitant to get started!
- You’re judgmental of others. Your standards of acceptability are so high that no one can consistently achieve them. If you find yourself with less friends than you’d like, your commitment to being perfect might be the reason why.
- You’re too hard on yourself. By the same token, you can’t live up to your expectations either. This leads to feelings of disappointment and shame. Are you more successful than most of the people you know, but less pleased with yourself than they are with themselves? Do you find it hard to be proud of yourself?
- You wish you were back in high school. High school is perfect for perfectionists. The competition isn’t too great on the average, and your achievements are witnessed by all. Your work is also clearly judged quantitatively. You know exactly where you stand.
So, I guess it’s time for a confession. I am a perfectionist. Just about every one of these signs can apply to me except for the last one. I am quite happy to have left my high school days behind.
Fortunately for me, and for you too, there are things that can be done to break the perfectionist habit.
3 tips for becoming less perfect
Determine how much time is reasonable for completing the task.
Set time limits on your tasks that other people – not you – would find reasonable, and stick to them.
Stay focused on the most important activities.
Perfectionists spend too much time on minor details. Ask yourself which activities will yield the most results for the time spent. Practice the Pareto Principle – spend 80 percent of your time on the top 20 percent of your tasks.
Practice being less perfect.
There’s a saying, “Done is better than perfect.” People want to know that things are getting done because projects that don’t get finished don’t make money. Get your work finished, and you can always go back and edit it later if necessary. Do the best you can, in the time you have allotted, and that will usually be good enough.
The good news is, being a perfectionist is not incurable. Use these tips, and practice doing something “good enough” every day. As a recovering perfectionist, your ‘good enough’ is still probably going to be excellent work. And you’ll get more of it done with less stress than if you were still worrying about it being absolutely perfect.