Perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis –one often leads to the next, in a vicious cycle, especially when it comes to large, long-term projects with no clear deadlines.
My next few blog posts will focus not only on the cycle itself, but also on how you can FINALLY disrupt it!
Let’s begin with perfectionism.
First let me say, that we all can be perfectionists over some things. This is not an all-or-none label.
We are more prone to perfectionism when we are involved in any creative activity or product of our labor that demonstrates to the world (and ourselves) what we are capable of achieving.
Perfectionism can be defined as striving toward impossibly high goals. Note the word “impossibly.”
Now, there is a perfectionism continuum. I know people who are slightly perfectionist… and others who are over-the-top perfectionists.
There is a huge difference.
“Aiming high” CAN help you become successful. Most successful people set high standards for themselves, and they meet those high standards. There is nothing wrong with pushing yourself to attain excellence. In many cases, the right amount of perfectionism can be partially responsible for helping you achieve the goals you have, up to this point.
However, it becomes a problem when the goal is always set beyond your reach.
After all, nobody’s perfect… but the goal of a perfectionist is to be perfect. In other words, the goal is to do the impossible! The perfectionist is caught in a trap – he or she can never be good enough.
This in itself causes a “perfectionism/anxiety vicious cycle”. Anxiety about revealing one’s abilities to the world and appearing “not good enough” causes perfectionism. But the striving to be absolutely perfect creates more anxiety!
An Imperfect Graphic of The “Perfectionism/Anxiety Vicious Cycle”
The perfectionism/anxiety vicious cycle referred to above causes perfectionists to cringe when even thinking about working on their next task.
[Note that I talk about perfectionists as “they,” but we all know that we can become perfectionists at a moment’s notice!]
Never feeling satisfied with their work or performance causes perfectionists to continue delaying their project. Their expectations for themselves are so high that they are difficult to meet. And guess what happens?
It’s so easy for them to say, “I’ll get started this weekend.” “I’ll start it after my in-laws leave.” Or maybe “I’ll do it next summer.” Unfortunately, by that point, they’ve completely lost touch with their goal.
But more about procrastination in my next post.
Perfectionists are not aware of their anxiety. They feel that it’s normal to want to do a good job, and often don’t realize that they constantly set unattainable goals.
Perfectionists engage in rigid, black-and-white thinking about their own performance. There are no gray areas: if it isn’t perfect, it’s horrible. They are always letting themselves down, disappointing themselves, or living with the fear that they are about to do so.
Perfectionists often fear that they are just about to be exposed as not good enough – and this manifests itself in the NEED to prove that they actually are good enough, even to themselves. Remember, black-and-white thinking leads them to believe that if they are not the best, they’re nothing.
When people are being perfectionists, they fail to realize that perfection itself IS a myth. It’s unobtainable.
You may have recognized yourself in some of these descriptions. And you’ll be happy to know that there really are techniques to help quell your perfectionism when it rears its cute little head.
Take the first step toward ending your procrastination habits for good: conquer your perfectionism!
Join me next week, when I focus on the second “P”: Procrastination itself.
Do you ever catch yourself being a perfectionist? What effect does perfectionism have on you? Can you think of a time when it actually slowed down or hindered your performance?