How To Stop Being A Perfectionist

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by Melody Fletcher on February 9, 2012

[Quick Note: I was recently asked to do an interview on blogging and on how to use the Law of Attraction to create a great blog. Although I don't consider myself an expert on blogging, it was a really fun exercise. The questions made me realize just how many fears and limiting thoughts I've overcome on my journey to my one year blogoversary. If you're interested, you can find the interview here. ]

In his guest post on BalanceInMe.com, Kristoph Matthews explores the idea of plugging time and energy leaks. This led me to remember how, back in my über-workaholic corporate days, I was able to successfully reduce my working days from 18 hours down to 8, while becoming MORE effective. A big part of this transition had to do with me finally figuring out that I didn’t need to do everything perfectly. In short, I had to kick my perfectionism in order to kick my workaholism.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Being a perfectionist had served me well, for the most part. It caused me to become extraordinarily successful in several careers, always rising to the top quickly. No “t” was left uncrossed, no “i” left undotted, no stone left unturned. If you asked me to do something, I’d get it done. In Technicolor. And flashing lights. No errors, no excuses, no mistakes, no exceptions. I developed a reputation for stellar work and that paid off. So, why would I ever want to give up my perfectionism?

Delivering perfect results takes time and effort. It takes immense concentration and often necessitates working well into the night, especially if one doesn’t enjoy much uninterrupted time during the day. And this is where the problem arose: I didn’t just put in that time and effort when it was absolutely necessary, but EVERY TIME. That’s right, even the smallest assignment was delivered with all the bells and whistles. GREAT for my bosses but HORRIBLE for me.

I was intense, driven, competitive and stressed beyond belief. I couldn’t let anything go, not the tiniest detail. I worked more hours in a day than humans should be awake, sacrificing weekends, any kind of social life, my health and my sanity. I was married to my job and it felt like an abusive marriage. Something had to break eventually, and it was nearly me.

Setting priorities

Kicking perfectionism essentially comes down to setting priorities. Not every project needs to be done to perfection. Not every assignment deserves 150% of your attention. We all know this logically, but when it comes to implementing it, the perfectionist finds himself slaving away at 5 a.m., tweaking the last of the details. For these kinds of individuals, it’s impossible to de-prioritize ANYTHING in practice. Ok, not impossible, but freaking hard.

The root cause

You may think that what’s at the heart of perfectionism is a need to please people or an irrational ambition, and those factors can certainly play a part. But what’s really driving this need to be perfect is fear. Perfectionists are often incredibly insecure people who are deeply afraid of failing. They’re terrified of letting the ball drop even once, for fear that they’ll be “found out” as incompetent or simply not good enough. Note that this is also why perfectionists don’t necessarily hold other people to the same standard. My employees were allowed to make mistakes. I wasn’t.

Without addressing this underlying insecurity, it’s impossible to kick perfectionism. Try and ask a perfectionist to do a “good” job instead of a “great” one. They may even try to comply, only their “good” will be indistinguishable from their “great”. When you question them about what they dropped, where the deficits in this version are, they’ll begin to justify to you why this and that detail couldn’t be eliminated or done to anything less than a stellar standard. Try to actually force them to hand in something that’s just “good enough” and chances are that they’ll have a full blown panic attack. Asking a perfectionist to let some details go is like asking a star opera singer to yodel in front of a million people.

It’s all or nothing

Perfectionists tend to see their work and sometimes that of others in terms of black and white – all or nothing. You’ve either done it RIGHT or WRONG. And anything less than perfect is wrong. 99.9% is considered a failure. Only 100% will do, and if you can do more, even better.

And failure is not an option. The perfectionist feels, deep down, that he’s not good enough. An act of failure, no matter how small, would mean being exposed for the fraud he thinks he is. Even the tiniest detail can come back to bite him in the ass, so every base must be covered. The actual urgency or importance of the task at hand isn’t important. A perfectionist will approach a client proposal with the same intensity as if he was diffusing a bomb in a room full of orphans. And what’s worse, he’ll feel the same level of stress should something, anything go wrong. What’s at stake is not the client proposal but his entire identity. The perfectionist wants to think of himself as good at what he does, but deep down, he’s afraid that he’s not and therefore feels the need to keep proving himself in every action, no matter how small. Again, it’s all or nothing.

Getting over perfectionism

While shifting deep rooted insecurities is beyond the scope of a little blog post (I know, mine aren’t so little. Shaddap), perhaps we can get the ball rolling a little.

If you’re a perfectionist, consider the following:

  • Choose a task, something that isn’t that important (from a logical point of view), something that you know could break and not cause a lot of damage. Start small.
  • Honestly (and take some time to think about this), what do you think will happen if you don’t give 100% on this task, or just don’t do it at all? Be aware that your answer doesn’t have to be and may well not be rational. Are you afraid that you’ll get fired? That your career will be over? That you’ll lose clients or are letting people down?
  • When you think of not doing this task or finishing it to a level of “just good enough”, what emotions come up (most likely a form of intense fear). Do not push this away or belittle it. Perfectionists who go unchecked often suffer from anxiety disorders. Do you feel this emotion viscerally (in your body)? Where? What does it feel like? It might take you a while to find it. You’ve likely been ignoring this feeling for a while now.
  • Have you always felt this way, or was there a time in your life when you felt competent and secure? Is there any activity that you do, just for fun, where you have no problems letting something go? Can you relax about anything? Are there any circumstances (for example, when a certain person is around) that allow you to relax?

Perfectionism is a much more deeply rooted issue than most people realize. The perfectionist is driven by intense fear and simply telling him to stop isn’t going to work. But once we soothe this fear and release it, his behavior will change automatically. I still work a lot. I’m still driven and focused and competitive (Play pool with me some time. I kind of suck but I can talk smack like nobody’s business!) I still get a hell of a lot done. I’m a perfectionist when comes to things that are really important to me (I’ll never post a blog post I’m not happy with), and I’m relaxed about the rest of it (I’m taking my time putting in the membership site. It’s a lot to learn and sometimes I just don’t feel like working on it. I don’t think anyone is losing sleep because of this.) I spot clean my house when I don’t feel like doing a full cleaning (it’s good enough). I skip going to the gym when I feel lazy. I don’t force myself to do anything I don’t want to do.

Interestingly, I don’t feel pressured to be a perfectionist when it comes to my writing. I’m so passionate about it that it’s a joy. When something becomes “work”, I know that I have to drop it. All of these changes only came about when I finally figured out that I was actually really good at what I did and that no mistake or missed deadline was ever going to negate that. Once I did, changing my behavior was no longer scary. It just kind of happened. And I never looked back.

Are you or is someone you know suffering from perfectionism? :) Share your experience in the comments!






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{ 56 comments }

John Cali February 9, 2012 at 19:50

I love this post, Melody! I’m also a recovering perfectionist. :)

Thanks so much.

Hugs,
John

Melody Fletcher February 9, 2012 at 20:38

Thanks John! There are many, MANY of us out there.

Thanks for stopping by!

Huge hugs!
Melody
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Philip Harris February 9, 2012 at 19:52

We are all perfectly ourselves and there do everything perfectly.

Melody Fletcher February 9, 2012 at 20:40

Hey Phil,

You’re so right. We are all perfect. The problem is that we don’t always realize it. But even then, everything is happening perfectly to let us know that we aren’t recognizing our own greatness. Don’t you just love it?

Huge hugs!
Melody
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Bryan Thompson February 9, 2012 at 20:00

Melody, first of all, thanks for the backlink! I really appreciate it!

I think perfectionism certainly has its roots in fear. I think it ultimately has roots in past rejections as well, in which fear is itself another symptom. That perfectionist helps us to guarantee that “that rejection will never happen again.” Which, of course, makes it a lie. We all face rejection. It’s a reality and it doesn’t always mean we’re not doing something right. That past rejection may have been for a number of crazy reasons that may have had nothing to do with us.

And I think there’s a difference between giving our best (as you mention) and being a perfectionist. Giving our best means being comfortable with our resources as good and excellent as it deserves. Perfectionism means we’re never really satisfied with our own work.

Great reminder to love ourselves!
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Melody Fletcher February 9, 2012 at 20:42

Hi Bryan,

You’re so welcome! :)

The fear that causes perfectionism can have different causes, depending on the person. And you’re right, many times it was a kind of rejection that set that ball in motion. I think there’s even a difference between being driven and being a perfectionist. I didn’t use to, but that’s because I was a perfectionist. Now, I know what it feels like to be positively driven by passion and in the grip of fear based perfectionism.

Thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts!

Huge hugs!
Melody
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Betsy at Zen Mama February 9, 2012 at 20:13

I need to be a little bit more of a perfectionist!! I’m most attached to the raising of my kids. That’s where I’ve learned to let go. Letting go is very important if you’re too attached to the outcome of a project or your house. Thanks for some great tips.
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Melody Fletcher February 9, 2012 at 20:44

You mean a little bit less of a perfectionist, I hope? LOL. You’re so right, Betsy. The more we care about the outcome, the harder it is to detach. But detaching doesn’t mean the same as not caring. It simply means that you’re not willing to base the way you feel on the outcome.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

Huge hugs!
Melody
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Fran Sorin February 9, 2012 at 20:29

Dear Melody…
Great topic. Perfectionism is a sneaky thing. Some folks who don’t look and act like the prototype of it actually are. I know about that!!

You mention that you don’t need to be a perfectionist with your writing. How I envy you. I am constantly editing…it often leaves me exhausted. Not good!

Your post is a good reminder that now is the time for me to start working on letting go of my need to be perfect as a writer. Thanks Melody. Fran
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Melody Fletcher February 9, 2012 at 20:47

Hey Fran,

You’re so right. Not all perfectionists are obvious about it. Many suffer in silence, he, he.

I had to release quite a bit of fear around my writing before I was able to relax about it. It’s weird. I had to be willing to publish something that was “good enough” in order to let it go. I don’t publish crap, but once I’m happy with it, I release it and let it go. I no longer worry about it, instead of waking up in the middle of the night, wondering if I could’ve worded something better and re-tweaking it over and over. Ironically, I think this has made my writing better. But it didn’t happen overnight. :)

Huge hugs and thanks so much for commenting!

Melody
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Philip F Harris February 9, 2012 at 21:02

Too much thought!!!!!

Melody Fletcher February 9, 2012 at 21:34

Well yes, but not everyone is ready to hear that. So I’m building a bridge. :)

Philip Harris February 9, 2012 at 21:44

Indeed, Mel, bridges are good and you’re doing a great job. What folks need to understand is that they don’t need to analyze things to death and attempts to do so actually give power to what they have found no longer serves them. It’s not necessary to understand why because the ‘why’ just keeps it going. Rather, focus on where you desire to be, not where you’ve been.

Melody Fletcher February 9, 2012 at 23:11

Hey Phil,
I’m going to agree and disagree with you. For me, in theory, we don’t need to focus on the why. But that presupposes that we can just shut our minds off, which for many of us in the West just isn’t possible. We need our minds to survive the urban jungle. So, we have to find a way to make peace with our minds and bring them on board. I’ve found that logical explanations of the why and the how actually help in those cases. The analysis doesn’t create the energy shift, but it gets the mind on board so that we can then do the emotional work.
Of course, once we’ve done that a few times, it gets easier and easier to get away from the why and go straight to just deciding to feel better and doing that. But we have to learn how to trust the process first. That’s kind of the crux of it, isn’t it? How do you develop faith?

Hugs!
M
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Philip F. Harris February 10, 2012 at 00:46

I’ll start at the end of your reply. I don’t believe in ‘faith’ because it implies uncertainty. Saying I have faith, to many stuck in dogma, means I don’t know, but really, really hope so. This uncertainty is transmitted to the Universe and what you get is uncertainty. When we say that the shift isn’t possible, what have we created/ Something that isn’t possible-your wish is my command. There is only a jungle if we believe it is a jungle. Since we can never really know why, too many variables, trying to figure it out keeps our mind locked in the problem. The past becomes prologue because we can’t figure it out, so it repeats until we do, which we cannot. yes, practice does reveal perfect, but we need to entire a state of ‘knowing,’ not belief or faith and all of the baggage those terms entail. I know we create our reality-all of it. I know I am responsible. I know that I have not made mistakes, I have just had opportunities to learn and explore. There are no footnotes to the law. No exceptions and as soon as we know that, the veil is lifted. Hugs???

Melody Fletcher February 10, 2012 at 18:28

Ah, I’m so loving this discussion! :)
I agree with our definition of faith and knowing. But I’m also a teacher, and when I teach, I do so from a place of knowing. Now, if my “student” doesn’t yet have this knowing, then the only way for him to experience it is to think as if he already has it and then feel the resonance of it. And I would call the process of thinking as if you have knowing when you don’t yet quite have it a leap of faith. Therefore, faith is a necessary step on the way to knowing.

It’s ok to explain the end state. Lots of people do, and so do I. But if someone looks around them and sees a jungle, I can tell them that there is no jungle all day long. They’ll still see it. But if I start to point out that there’s also a hammock and a fruity drink with an umbrella and a beautiful stream and singing birds, then they will slowly but surely start seeing the beauty and stop seeing the jungle. For me, personally, that means that I have to acknowledge that they feel that they are in a jungle.

Thank you Phil. You’ve really caused me to clarify several thoughts with our comments.

Huge hugs to you!

Melody

Mary Carol Moran February 9, 2012 at 21:44

Interesting topic, Melody!

I began to consciously separate stuff into two categories in high school: perfect matters and perfect doesn’t matter. Academic stuff had to be darn near perfect, and being on the tennis team, where I wasn’t very good, was my place to do my best and relax about the outcome. Slowly, I’ve moved more and more of my life into the tennis category.

When I realized that my daughter was a budding perfectionist, figuring out how to help her helped me a lot. One day she cried for a half hour trying to get the exact shade of blue that she wanted for a painting. She was eight years old. We started working on “excellent” as opposed to “perfect,” and we’ve used the distinction ever since.

The one place I refuse to let go of perfectionism is in my writing. I’ve spent months looking for one word for one line of a poem, and then when I finally find it, I know. But I have learned to stop editing after the fact. Once something is in the public domain, it has a life of its own. And I do the old high school trick of separating. I’m sure I make way more mis-steps on blog responses than I would in a poem. But again, once I hit the submit button, no more second guessing.

I won’t say perfectionism, but I will say a drive for excellence can be a good thing. To me it can be a learning tool. Even as a professional editor, I never edited someone’s work for them, only with them. Trying to get the writing to the best it can be is a way to learn to do a better first draft the next time.

Sorry I’ve drifted off the topic here. The comments touched on a favorite hobbyhorse – the joy of writing!

Perfectionism at work can also indicate a lack of trust in other people. “You’re going to make me look bad.” Another deep seated fear. Much better to trust the universe to bring the right people together at the right time to accomplish the right task. But sometimes easier said than done. Interesting how perfectionism ties into entitlement. Hmmm…

Okay, I’ll try to just do my best, and let the outcome be what it is. Thank you tennis! Thank you, Melody!

Perfect hugs (hee hee),

Mary Carol
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Melody Fletcher February 9, 2012 at 23:18

Hey Mary Carol,

I think a drive for excellence is a really good thing. The important thing is how does it feel? If it feels stressful and frustrating and fearful, then you’re pushing too hard and acting out of fear. Not a good place to be. Wanting to be excellent, in and of itself, isn’t a harmful desire.
I do the same thing as you: I try to get it perfect, and then once I hit “Publish”, I trust that it was good enough. I did my best. That’s all I can ask for.

And you’re right, perfectionism is often coupled with a distrust in other people, as well as an unrealistic sense of responsibility to be everyone’s safety net (yeah… that’s another blog post). Beliefs never come stand alone. They are always intertwined, like the root system under a forest. But for the sake of explanation, I separate them from each other. In real life, of course, we work on “issues” which generally incorporate many different beliefs at different levels, instead of single beliefs. And in the end, as I said in response to Phil’s comment above, all the analysis in the world is just a guide to find a starting point. After that, you have to feel your way through it. We can never forget that. :)

Huge hugs my dear!

Melody
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patricia February 9, 2012 at 23:12

I grew up in a family of perfectionists, driven by my mother’s perfectionism.
I have never been a perfectionist, but was trained to strive for it at all costs.

Then one day, I discovered that my Mother thought baby pink and baby blue were the quintessential color combination – and I thought, “I don’t like that color combination at all and I know lots of people do not like that combination.” I discovered people have their own definitions of what is perfectionism and what is perfect.

Sometimes when I am cooking I look down and see my Mother’s hands and I laugh and then I look around to see what I am trying to do perfectly. I am a great cook, but if something doesn’t turn out, oh well, it is full of good ingredients and not burned – enjoy it for that!

Yesterday I realized I was trying to eat on this new regime perfectly. So I switched it up and ate just like I felt like it – the same food different order. I slept well, was not hunger and my erratic blood sugar level dropped to normal…

I am getting so much better at catching myself…and when the router, modem and email program all failed me in January…and I was starting my new business – I just switched to catching up on my reading and getting relaxed….

I think too lots and lots of folks think that they need to find perfect happiness…
I am enjoying liking myself more and celebrating moments of contentment and no worry I am not searching for the big H

Most women my age are pulling inward…I am reaching outward and want to be seen and recognized…

Now I need to add what is the perfectionism within my issues with money..
Another stellar post – I thank you for sharing it.

OH and we gave up my Mother’s perfectionism for Christmas and Thanksgiving and wow are we getting closer as a family – there are lots of upsides
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Melody Fletcher February 10, 2012 at 18:31

Hey Patricia,

It’s great to hear you being so positive! :)
It’s incredible how we pick up perfectionist tendencies. We don’t have to be like that all the time. Sometimes it’s just around one issue (like Christmas). And when we realize that we’re doing it, we can stop. And oh, the relief of it. :)

I’m sure I still have things that I’m a total perfectionist about. But I’m looking out for them.

Huge hugs!
Melody
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Sylviane Nuccio February 10, 2012 at 04:13

Very interesting article, Melody. Even though I never really think of myself as a perfectionist in general, as I was reading this I was thinking how I’ve got to be perfect in some areas.

I agree with the fact that perfectionism has a lot to do with fear and insecurity, there is no doubt about it. But as you mentioned also, perfectionism also helps you excel at what you do.

Like I said, I am not a perfectionist at everything I do, but I recognize that I am at certain things, like learning foreign languages in my case. Wanting to be perfect at that because I felt that if I didn’t people would think less of me when I spoke the language made me master two foreign languages pretty well. That’s how I became an interpreter :)
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Melody Fletcher February 10, 2012 at 18:34

Hey Sylviane,

I didn’t know you were an interpreter! That’s awesome. I found that waiting to be perfect at Spanish meant never speaking. I had to overcome the reluctance to look like an idiot in order to speak. Now I do. I’m nowhere near perfect and I do make mistakes (and annoyingly, no one ever corrects me because they totally understand me and find my mistakes “cute”, so they become totally ingrained after a while…) but, well, people understand me just fine.
Of course, there’s that little part of me that would love to be all impressive and speak Spanish as though it was my mother tongue, but really, in the grand scheme of things, I can live without that. :)

Huge hugs!
Melody
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Kristoph February 10, 2012 at 05:19

Hi Melody-

LOVE the perfectionist cat picture! I thought your suggestions of trying to identify the emotions behind our drive to be perfect because it brings awareness, but I was curious- what do you think the next step is? How do we take these emotions and resolve our need to be perfect?

Kristoph
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Melody Fletcher February 10, 2012 at 18:41

Hey Kristoph,

You’d have to figure out what the underlying thought was. For example, it could be “I’m not good enough”. Then, work on raising that thought, little by little, into better and better feeling places. I published the Vibrational Ladder technique, which helps people do this method on their own. You can find it here: http://www.deliberateblog.com/2011/07/17/the-vibrational-ladder-how-to-feel-better-in-4-simple-steps/

I also offer coaching to help people find and raise those individual thoughts. But often just recognizing the issue can get the process of shifting energy started.

Huge hugs and thanks for inspiring this post!
Melody

Paige | simple mindfulness February 10, 2012 at 07:40

I’ve spent a good chunk of my life living with the curse of “not good enough.” Always trying to achieve, many times just to see if I could do it (I always knew I could – no matter what it was).

I remember in high school, at the year end awards ceremony, my brother commented: What’s wrong? You didn’t win anything this year!

And graduation cum laude from college and beating myself up because I was so close to being magna cum laude (if it weren’t for that one psychology class…).

Never mind the same kinds of incidents throughout my corporate career.

Having kids definitely tames the perfectionist beast. They consume so much energy that it’s impossible to give them the time, attention and love they deserve and still freak out about all the other crap. I’m now good with good enough. And happy about it!

Thanks Melody!
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Melody Fletcher February 10, 2012 at 18:44

Ooh yes, Paige! That’s an awesome point. Kids definitely give you the opportunity to let the perfectionist thing go (not that it’s a given, there are some horribly stressed yuppie mummies out there…) Suddenly, the house doesn’t have to be perfect anymore and not everything has to be just so. And just maybe, the joy of playing with the little hobbits outweighs everything else. :) It does help to set priorities, doesn’t it?

Huge hugs to you and your little ones!

Melody

Vidya Sury February 10, 2012 at 08:23

Hi Melody (thanks for the wonderful wishes :-) )

I wish I had read this post years ago instead of learning the long, hard and painful way. Yikes, I just had to get everything just right. It created so much pressure, within and am sure around me it drove me nuts. It is funny how things happen to balance life out in a drastic way, and am grateful that i was lucky enough to experience that. I suddenly let go and learned to relax when I decided to get married. I actually quit my job, thinking I could always find another one when I felt like. Life changed completely. It wasn’t like I wasn’t happy earlier – it is just that letting go of the pressure made all the difference to the way happiness tasted.

Great post. One that I am proud to share!

Melody Fletcher February 10, 2012 at 18:47

Ah yes! Another great point, Vidya! Perfectionism can definitely be triggered by certain environments. So the corporate environment brought that out in you, while the home one didn’t (or perhaps just a lot less so, letting you deal with it). I was definitely triggered differently by different jobs. I was always a perfectionist at work, but not always with quite the same intensity…

Thanks so much for adding your valuable insight.

Huge hugs,
Melody

Jack@TheJackB February 10, 2012 at 10:55

I wanted to leave the perfect comment and to do it under 45 words but I think that I have fallen short of that goal leaving me less than perfect. I hate when that happens. ;)

It is hard to relax in some areas, even though we know that we don’t have to hit a homerun there is still this need to try.
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Melody Fletcher February 10, 2012 at 18:49

Hey Jack!

Well, there’s a difference between trying to hit a home run and staying at batting practice all night long because you’re not willing to go home until your swing is perfect. It all comes down to how it feels. Does the activity feel fun? Are you driven to be great by passion? Then go for it. But if it’s stressful and the idea of not being perfect has your stomach tied in knots, you may have some cleaning up to do… :)

Oh and Jack? Your comment was absolutely perfect. :)

Perfect hugs,
Melody

Sameer February 10, 2012 at 18:22

Hey Awesome Melody,

Like I said, I left perfection around 2 years back. I don’t remember the reason now but, I use to be like you in my office, working late, I use to love working & doing some initiatives after everybody leaves for the day. Because of this habit (initiatives) I got so many appreciations, awards & promotions also but, I feel like now it’s time to let go this habit.

Now I have family & like Vidya said, after marriage lot of things changes & hence automatically I left Perfection and I am happy about it. It gives sense of relaxation and probably this saves from hyper tension when others don’t do work in perfection.

Thanks for sharing the way to stop perfection.

Huge Hugs & Lots of Love,
Sameer :)

Melody Fletcher February 10, 2012 at 18:53

Hey Sameer,

Family does help to get some perspective, doesn’t it? The wonderful thing is, that perfectionism may lead to success (at a high price), but that doesn’t mean that lack of perfectionism leads to failure. I was even more successful after I dropped my perfectionist tendencies because I still focused on all the really important stuff, but dropped everything else or at least didn’t give those lesser tasks 150% of my attention anymore. I got MORE done in less time, had more energy and was probably a lot easier to work with. That’s the irony…

Thanks for stopping by!

Huge hugs!
Melody

Sameer February 10, 2012 at 19:49

Hey Awesome Melody,

Bang On! Family is lovely (family of relatives & family of friends).

I paid high price of getting my back pain working for perfection. End of the work I was happy looking at the appreciations but, looking at the pain, now I am happier that, “Thank God I am out of Perfection” or “150%.”

I read your interview, it is awesome like you. I loved it the way you have answered all the questions.

I must say “Very nice questions” by Agota.

All the best with all you do. You have one confirmed Fan “Sameer”. I will always stop by.

Huge Hugs & Lots of Love,
Sameer :)

Melody Fletcher February 10, 2012 at 21:31

Thank you so much Sameer! Yes, Agota’s questions were amazing. She really did her homework and her questions led to much better answers. I have a new found respect for the art of interviewing, that’s for sure. :)

Jason Fonceca February 11, 2012 at 18:40

I generally choose to focus on blending both.

My number one favourite way to create is

“Fun, passionate, creating that feels almost effortless in it’s delivery of refined, high-quality in fulfilling time-periods.”

A far cry from perfection, if perfection is draining, overdone, and no fun. :)
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Melody Fletcher February 11, 2012 at 19:59

Hey Jason,

Sounds like you’re doing it right! :) Seeking perfection is great if it feels good. If it feels stressful and draining, aim lower. It always comes back to the way we feel, doesn’t it? LOL.

Huge hugs!
Melody

PJ Zafra February 12, 2012 at 18:35

Honestly, I was a perfectionist before. Not so different from the cat in your picture. lol It really stressed me out and I felt like I was losing my hair even when I wasn’t even in my 20′s yet lol It’s good to put our best in everything we do but we can’t always think that things can go better. As long as we know deep from our hearts that we’ve done our best, then that’s enough. We need to accept that no one is perfect. If you want to stand out and be the first one, then do it and let’s see if you won’t lose your mind. lol

We’re human. We learn by making mistakes. We’re happy because we’re not perfect.

Thanks for sharing this Melody! :)
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Melody Fletcher February 12, 2012 at 20:49

Hi PJ!

The pursuit of perfection is truly an impossible one and that leads to a lot of stress. Isn’t it wonderful when we realize that we really don’t have to do it all? That we are actually good enough, just the way we are? What a relief!

Congrats on making that jump!! And thanks for coming by and sharing your story.

Huge hugs!
Melody
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Steve February 15, 2012 at 07:24

I couldn’t help but nod in agreement with how you described the root cause of perfectionism. As someone who has battled perfectionism on and off, I can see how it is rooted in a fear of failing. I am the kind of person who likes things done a certain way and I hold myself to high expectations. However, there is a difference between high expectations and completely unrealistic expectations. Eventually you have to just trust yourself and let mistakes happen. Otherwise, you just second guess yourself on everything. And that can really slow you down.
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Melody Fletcher February 15, 2012 at 20:49

Too true, Steve! High expectations and striving for excellence are great. They push us forward. But when achieving anything but absolute excellence won’t do, no matter what the cost, then we’ve got a problem.. :)

Huge imperfect hugs! (actually, all hugs are perfect…)

Melody
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Dianna February 20, 2012 at 13:41

Thanks for a really insightful blog.
I’ve always though i was ‘ a bit of a perfectionist’ when it comes to certain aspects of my life but I’ve previously considered it to be a positive thing. Just recently, I felt inadequate doing something I’ve always considered myself to be really good at. I was in a professional situation where in my opinion I should have been excelling in the task and in front of everyone I was training with, I made a minor silly mistake. I was so hard on myself afterwards and my internal feelings were that of failure, humiliation and anger for not being perfect. I realised in that moment, that my strive for perfection wasn’t such a good thing after all and that something had to give. I also began looking at different life events that were non work-related from my past and i realised that I had approached all manor of things in the same way…even stuff that should be really fun… like learning to snowboard. In my romantic relationships – i expect things to match my ideal of what the perfect relationship should be and of course, in doing this i’m simply setting myself up to fail.
In reading your article its helped me to understand that I am hard on myself because I am fearful of being ‘rumbled’ …that i’m pretty insecure about being a failure and people telling me so.
I suppose I will always want to do a good job but if I can learn to enjoy the process of getting there (and that includes making mistakes along the way) I’m sure I will be more less stressed about things and happier with who I am.

Thanks a million for helping me on my new little path,
x

Melody Fletcher February 20, 2012 at 20:38

Hey Dianna!

Welcome to Deliberate Receiving!
Congratulations on such a powerful insight. Striving for excellence and fear based perfectionism aren’t the same thing. And it’s amazing that when you get rid of that fear, it actually becomes easier to do a great job. You’ll take more risks, so there are more rewards. And you won’t waste as much time beating up on yourself for teensy mistakes. All that energy is wasted, and can then be applied to moving ahead further.

Expectations generally set us up to fail. They’re far too narrow. Most of the time we don’t even really know what we want. We do know a few things that we don’t want and then try to define one way in which we could avoid those things. And then expect that one thing to happen, and when it doesn’t, we get all grumpy. Don’t worry, we all do it to some extent. But when we realize that we’re doing it, we can start the process of letting those expectations go. And then, life gets really fun, because you start letting all the good stuff in. It’s like opening a faucet from a trickle to a gushing stream. Yay!

Huge hugs to you!
Melody
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Ash March 27, 2012 at 14:15

Thank you so much for this blog!
I am 15 and a MAJOR perfectionist! Well…i’m trying to recover.
This really allowed me to get a real insight look on why I am a perfectionist and what are the causes and how i can change from being driven my needing an A in all my subjects to enjoying the work, not overly stressing and analyzing and yet receiving good marks and feel wonderful about them. My english teacher told me that my writing and overall english skills were at a Year 12 level and i am yr 10. When she said that in front of the whole class, i didnt bat an eyelid, it was like, i was, in a way expecting it and that because i am the best or top of the class i shouldnt be surprised. I always see everything in black and white, it is truly horrible and i have anxiety disorder, typical right? I hope to be a Paediatrician one day and i wont get into med school going at this rate, i have had panic attacks in class and they are very severe. A lot of students who dont even know me tell me that im perfect, school captain, soccer captain, never had a detention or been sent to time out, perfect. I feel like teachers expect be tonbe perfect all the time and sometimes i wonder if its just me who is pushing to follow my own shadow of success.
I really want to enjoy my writing and i feel like i cant because i need to have it at the best level possible, all my teachers know i am great, they all know, yet i feel like i always need to prove it to them, everytime! I’m so scared of failing, so much, even the one slightest error or mistake sets me off….and i cant stop, i try to but i just cant. Sometimes it gets so much that i just feel like walking in front of a car.

Anyway, thank you so much, you truly have helped me and i will be book marking this page so i can always come back to it, thank you Melody.

Ash

Melody Fletcher March 27, 2012 at 15:28

Hey Ash,

It sounds like you’re a classic perfectionist alright! The teachers’ expectations are simply reflections of your own. If you learn to lighten up a bit, they will, too. The important thing to ask yourself is: What is really important to you? Why do you want to get good grades? Why do you want to achieve what you want to achieve? It is more important for your paper to be the best in the class, or for you to have really enjoyed the process of writing it and to have an end result that you’re creatively really happy with?

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, please talk to someone whom you can trust. A counselor, a good friend, even *gasp* perhaps your parents. ;)

I wrote an article on Panic attacks that might help you: http://www.deliberatereceiving.com/fear-part1-how-to-deal-with-panick-attacks.html, as well as those who love you.

Hang in there. You’re on a journey, and when you figure out that you’re making this a lot harder than it needs to be, it will get a lot more fun. And what you figure out about yourself as you make this shift in perspective will be invaluable to you. And possibly others – those you can help in the future.

Sending you huge hugs!

Melody
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Julian June 9, 2012 at 13:12

Hi Melody,

I came across this blog while I was trying to find a way to stop myself from being such a perfectionist. I’m currently in the middle of my A-Levels (I live in England) and even when I’m doing past paper questions in preparation, I can’t help myself from spending way too much time (which I really can’t afford to spend) on them. Also, my writing is pretty poor, and I get so frustrated with myself when I don’t think my writing is any good, and I end up crossing words out over and over and writing them out again. Do you have any ideas for a way for me to calm myself in these situations and focus on the topics I need to know, rather than obsessing over making my work look perfect? I’m just worried it will happen when I’m in the exam hall (although it hasn’t happened yet!).

Julian

Melody Fletcher June 9, 2012 at 15:14

Hi Julian,

Welcome to Deliberate Receiving!
I actually just answered a very similar question in the following blog post: http://www.deliberateblog.com/2012/06/05/quick-questions-about-loa-and-manifesting-volume-2/

Let me know if that helps.

Huge happy shiny puppy hugs!

Melody
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chicoloco August 5, 2012 at 07:07

started searching this topic up to help my gf, knows shes a perfectionist but doesnt know how to stop, so i gotta/wanna help. :P

thanks for the advice :D

Melody Fletcher October 4, 2012 at 00:17

Thanks so much Chicoloco! I hope it was helpful. :)

Hugs,
Melody
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jane October 3, 2012 at 20:42

Hi, thanks for your post. I have only just today discovered I am a perfectionist!!!!!!! it feels a relief to actually be able to put my finger on whats been going on so long for me. I hope I can recover from this dreadful thing !!! so thanks for your post x

Melody Fletcher October 4, 2012 at 00:18

Hey Jane,

Of course you can “recover”. It’s always an ongoing process. You’ll figure out how to let up on yourself and relax more, and in time, your old perfectionist self will be something from your past, that you chuckle about. :)

Huge hugs!
Melody
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Lauren February 22, 2013 at 17:45

Thanks so much for this article!
I am just 17, and struggling to kick my perfectionism to the kerb. I am deeply afraid of failing school, even though inside I KNOW I won’t. I obsess over the tiniest things and will worry for hours if something isn’t done to my standards. It’s making me ill, and tired, and stressed, which is not only bad for me but everyone around me.
Your article really made me realize that I don’t have to be perfect all the time. I’m definitely not, so I guess I try to make it up. I shall definitely try some of your methods, so that I can finally relax and be able to do the best that I can when my exams roll up without making myself ill or overworked.

Melody Fletcher February 23, 2013 at 21:53

Hey Lauren,

I’m glad this post helped you! :) Do let us know how it goes!! And good luck.

And you are perfect just the way you are. Flaws and all. :)

Huge hugs,

Melody
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Katherine June 11, 2013 at 17:11

Thanks for sharing Melody. I’d like to think of myself as a recovering perfectionist too. At work I’ve come to the realization that I can do the best that I can on that given day. One quote that I read somewhere was that “you run your own race”. That’s helped me a lot because we choose what we want to do. It goes along the lines of what you had said about picking your priorities.

V September 24, 2013 at 20:17

Dear Melody,

thanks for posting this article. Perfectionism can be such an incredibly unrewarding job under so many aspects…I never get satisfied with what I do even after dedicating all my care and attention PLUS Tons of my time to it . Still, the nagging feeling would just not leave me alone . People eventually appreciate me for something that is bascially an issue , and this can happen in jobs as well as in relationships.. I am easy to get bogged down as I am always the special one to rely on , but I dont feel flattered at all. I can easily see how the most really appreciated people are those who don’t seek perfection and are just happy and confident to show who they really are. They are most likely to get in jobs they are really passionate about , as talent has nothing to do with being perfect but unique. Also they get the real appreciation out of people, as they do not just excel at being reliable and accountable…and above all they are obviuosly the happiest ones .
We should really ask ourselves what’s the point in sacrifying SOOO much to it ?
hugs

V September 24, 2013 at 20:27

sorry talking about perfectionism I think misspelled sacrifycing hahaha! x

F December 16, 2013 at 10:34

Thank you so much for this blog, it really helped!
I too am a perfectionist, and I find this trait is especially evident in my music practice. I think with the amount of attention to detail required to be a musician, some degree of perfectionism may be beneficial, but there is a danger which I believe I’ve fallen into of becoming too reliant of expecting perfection of yourself. Such that although my intentions are otherwise, I am actually detracting from the productivity of practise. Although it shall be tough to expect less of myself, I’ll try to make an attempt.
Thank you again for providing me with such insight :)

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