7 Myths about Perfectionism
I admit it – I am a perfectionist! Oh, I have come a long way in the last 30 years, but every now and then that perfectionistic leaning rears its ugly head once again!
Take this past weekend for example. I created some nifty “love” magnets as favors for my daughter-in-law-to-be’s shower only to discover after the shower that one of the designs had a typo. Pierce my soul! Thank heavens there were three other mistake free designs!
The perfectionistic rascal in my head began to chatter: “How could you do that? You should have noticed that typo while you were working on them! Who wants a silly typo magnet?”
Yet, the shower was a success and life goes on – after all, the magnets were hardly the most important part of the celebrating! And yes, I am human!
In the past, my perfectionistic tendencies showed up in a variety of ways. It made inviting people over to our home burdensome – keeping a perfect house while working and managing a family is tricky. Spotting a mistake in a just printed volume of The Building Blocks Learning Program – Bible curriculum for kids I’ve authored – made me want to run and hide. And it put unnecessary pressure on my kids to measure up. Let’s just say being a perfectionist is a quick way to crush joy!
I have learned to let go and be satisfied with doing things well – that’s been huge! And to be more OK with showing my human side – even when hosting showers!
When that perfectionistic thing surfaces and keeps me from doing things, it is an indicator that whatever I am putting off is something I view as important and that it matters a whole lot to me.
And rather than get stuck in the quicksand of perfectionism, it makes more sense to dispel the myths about perfectionism so that I can continue to make strides towards all that God has called me to be and do.
Have you gotten suckered into believing any of these myths?
1. The Permanent Myth
Perfectionism lures you into thinking that your efforts are cut in stone and will last forever. In reality, the majority of things will be easily forgotten like my magnet mishap and are not nearly as monumental as you imagined. Or they are things that can be edited, updated, or improved at a later date.
Let that free you up to speak from your heart when speaking publicly, share with candor as you write your next blog, tackle your next goal, or create that next something. Clinging to the fact that nothing is permanent will set your creative juices flowing and allow you to tap into greater creativity and ultimately enjoy better results!
2. The Positive Myth
Somehow you convince yourself that trying to do things in a perfect and most excellent way is positive. In reality, focusing on trying to be perfect is not positive at all! It is all about dwelling on the problems, the mistakes – all the not so perfect bits about something. In fact, there might be a zillion positive things and yet the focus is on the one or two less than perfect parts.
A truly positive person would keep their focus on the positive!
3. The Success or Failure Myth
Perfectionism blinds you to the spectrum between success and failure. Like other all-or-nothing ways of thinking, it highlights the extreme options with nothing in-between! Even worse, the tendency is to believe that the odds are slanted significantly in the failure direction. Of course you procrastinate – who wants to fast track towards failure?
The truth is that there is always room for improvement no matter how amazing your first effort is. Because we are constantly growing, when we look at past efforts the desire to update can be strong! Some things, like my magnets, aren’t even worth your time to reinvest and do over. Other things like meetings or presentations, consider valuable learning experiences – invest the time and energy to figure out what to do differently the next time.
4. The Possible Myth
Being perfect – that’s not even possible so why invest so much time and energy into striving for perfect? That’s a game you lose before you even get started. Not to mention that it is incredibly paralyzing!
Instead, work on steadily improving. And when those imperfect moments pop up – take a moment to laugh at yourself and remember you are human!
5. The Performance Myth
Neatly embedded into perfectionism is the thinking that our performance equals our worth! Nothing could be further from the truth, thank heavens! Since being perfect is not even possible, finding my worth this way is a lost cause!
In reality, as believers, our worth is 100% connected to what Jesus did for us on the cross. He valued us enough to die for us and that’s pretty awesome! And He loves me – even when my magnets contain a typo!
6. The People Will Like Me Better Myth
Attempting to be perfect is actually an attempt to gain the approval of others – to shine enough to capture their attention. Unfortunately, perfect people don’t exist, and it requires you to push others down so you can appear perfect, and nobody gets excited about that!
In my experience, people are attracted to people who are vulnerable and easy to relate to – not perfect! It is the people who genuinely care about you and can be fully present with you that you are drawn to – people who know they are human, like you!
7. The Pedestal Myth
Nestled neatly in perfectionism is the idea that while you are not perfect, others are, and you place them up on a pedestal. You take note of their strengths, overlook their weaknesses, and then you compare yourself to them. That’s just silly!
Each one of us is unique and has a different personality, thinking preference, and set of strengths and weaknesses that make us shine in different ways. That’s worth celebrating in others, not something to compare yourself to. When you are sure of what makes you special and unique, you can relax and appreciate what you have to offer as well as the terrific things others bring to the table.
Trying to achieve perfection will cause you to keep putting things off and prevent you from reaching your goals. It will paralyze you and make walking in the purpose God has for you unattainable. That’s discouraging!
Instead, let yourself be propelled forward by partnering with God and taking consistent baby steps forward, dwelling on truth and rather than myths, and releasing the need to be epic. After all, doing something is always better than intending to do something perfect and never getting it done!
How about you? What role has perfectionism played in your life or leadership?