No other destructive trait disguises itself as a virtue as well as perfectionism does. That’s why people bring it up during job interviews, or use it as an excuse for being an absolute nightmare to work with.
I remember being proud of the fact that I could name 10 things wrong with any object, any human, any piece of work, anything at all at a first glance. When you’re a perfectionist, your eye gets automatically drawn to every tiny imperfection out there. It’s simply a default setting of your brain. And you know what’s the worst? You can’t turn it off. Not when you’re home with your family, not when you’re hanging out with your friends, not when you’re trying to explore new things or get to know new people. Eventually I started perceiving it as a limitation rather than a virtue.
Do you feel the gravity of it? The brain is never in a chill mode, it’s always actively seeking out things that are wrong (according to its own world view, of course). While at it, it ignores every other world view, and every nuance that it happens to overlook. It almost implies that there’s the right way, and everything else.
Seeing the world in these black and white terms is very damaging. That’s when judgement and ignorance come into play. And if something feels unacceptable, there’s a chance that it will annoy us in other people as well, even only because we secretly wish for it ourselves.
Trying out new things and playing the field might feel like an unreasonably difficult challenge when you think of things as right and wrong. Experimenting with anything (be it appearance, style, professional path, or even hobbies) will be torturous, because that inner permission to play has not been granted. If it’s your hobby, it has to define you. If it’s your favorite band, every single album has to be 100% aligned with your musical tastes. Perfectionists tend to view every decision as a CHOICE, no matter how insignificant or mundane it is. In their mind, every tiniest event is accompanied by life-altering consequences. So it HAS to be perfect.
Just thinking in these terms is exhausting. Imagine living like this? All the time?
I used to be a perfectionist myself, and it was bad. I will forever remember that unnerving feeling that something is off, or everything is off, and you’ve got to do something about it, stat. Not a single project went smoothly. Not a single launch in my jewelry business happened without me feeling a certain degree of loathing towards myself, my jewelry, photography, or product descriptions. As any solopreneur, I had to think of a thousand things; meticulousness of perfectionism made it a nightmare.
Let me tell you: a lot of things can be perfected and be better. In the long term. However, in the short term they just need to be DONE. Do you see the difference?
So over time I gave up on trying to seem perfect. You see, I never felt perfect inside – each of us knows our own deepest secrets, shameful thoughts and embarrassing moments – and none of that have anything to do with perfection. So the desire to come of as perfect is just a sign of our egos trying to be bigger than everyone else’s.
As soon as I allowed myself not to be the “Goodest Girl” anymore, perfectionism suddenly stopped being such a problem. Once you lose interest in pretending to be someone you’re not, there’s no reason to be perfect all the time anymore.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still not 100% there when it comes to professional life, as that is where an image has an utmost value. But I still hope to learn how to conduct business without the paralyzing poison of perfectionism, but I see the light now. I used to feel hopeless under the weight of constant dissatisfaction of how my work felt, looked and could be perceived, and I truly hope that one day I’ll come back to do it the right way. I want to enjoy it, not loath it. After all, the only way not to make any mistakes is to do nothing. And perfectionism works overtime to persuade us that doing nothing is better than getting “just OK” results.