5 Practical tips for living your perfectionism well
I like when everything is perfect, the substance and the form: I am a perfectionist.
Sounds like great quality, right?
We live in a society that loves and values excellence. We commend and admire people who achieve outstanding performance.
And yet, this quest for perfection often bothers me.
Being a perfectionist does not only have advantages
- because perfection, well it doesn’t exist! I am often disappointed because I see everything I could have done better or what is missing…
- because this perfectionism takes up a lot of my time – I sometimes get lost in the maze of perfection – and it is often a source of stress
- because I find it difficult to delegate – since my level of requirements is often higher than many others, I am often tempted to take over what others have done… and some even decide to let me see that I will pass behind them…
- because I expect – in return – the same from others and am often disappointed
- because it also pushes me to procrastinate when I imagine the mountain of work to be done
In short, there are times when I envy those who are satisfied with little.
I tried to figure out how to become “less of a perfectionist”.
How to accept that everything is not perfect?
Imagine that “becoming less of a perfectionist” or “accepting that it’s not perfect” are sentences that make me shudder.
Because doing the best you can is really important to me. I would have a low opinion of myself if I didn’t do my best. The discovery of the theory of the 5 drivers allowed me to put things into perspective and to accept that I will never completely change.
My goal is therefore not to no longer be a perfectionist but to “live better with my perfectionism”.
What can I do to better live with my perfectionism?
I told myself that I must not be the only one trying to work on perfectionism. So I looked for practical advice on the internet.
I didn’t find any useful.
Indeed, most were too vague:
- “set realistic goals and stay flexible”: OK, but I don’t feel that my goals are unrealistic and I don’t know how to be flexible!
- “lower your requirements”: there, it seems downright impossible to me
- “valuing the meaning of effort”: OK, but that doesn’t change anything, I still want to aim for perfection.
So I changed my strategy and tried to think for myself.
And I said to myself that, perhaps, this reflection could be useful to others. That’s why I share it.
Living well with perfectionism: What works for me
How did I proceed?
I tried to understand
- what I don’t like about my perfectionism,
- what, on the contrary, I like in my perfectionism and that I don’t want to give up,
- and what would make me live this perfectionism well.
I like the idea of doing things right. Yeah, I don’t want to let go.
What weighs me down is rather the notion of time and stress:
- time because it often takes a lot of my time that I can’t spend on anything else
- stress because I don’t feel detached from the result. I very much envy those who know exactly what is really important to them, don’t spend too much time on the rest – they value the details.
In making this reflection, I realized that perfectionism is only a very relative question: thinking about it, I am not a perfectionist on everything: I can live in a messy room without problem while the faults of spelling bother me. Conversely, others may seem to me to be perfectionists on storage and not attentive to their spelling. In fact, we are probably all perfectionists on certain points but not the same.
So perfectionism is just a matter of prioritizing some things and not others.
OK, but then how to keep a level of requirement on what matters to me while finding more calm and serenity? For example, accepting to delegate without wanting to review everything?
Here’s what I’ve found that helps me be less of a “perfectionist”.
1. Constrain my time
My perfectionism is expressed all the more as I have time in front of me. I discovered that constraining my time forced me to make choices.
Here are the two strategies I adopt:
- ” How much time do I want to allocate to this task “: this question is very nice, because it speaks of desire more than of duty or obligation. “What is my desire about the task I am about to do? If I want to do it really well, I’ll give it more time. It also forces me to be aware of the time I spend and pushes me to finish a first draft on time.
- Regularly take stock of my priorities and put them in my diary: if my diary is already full, there is no time to improve: I have to go to the essentials. Every weekend, I take stock of the past week and the week to come, what I could do to be proud of myself at the end of the week. And I plan it. I do the same every month and every year. It helps me not to lose sight of what is important to me. And above all to put it in my diary.
2. Change my self-talk
I also realized that what guided my perfectionism was often my little inner voice. Changing the way I talk to myself can play a role. Here are 3 strategies I use:
- “1 is better than 0” (an expression of Fabien Olicard ). Often, it is better to have done less well than not done at all. I often repeat this sentence to myself while reflecting on the meaning of the action I am undertaking.
- “ When I’m done, I offer myself…” : telling myself that I only devote an hour to an article is worth it if it allows me to get a reward afterwards. For example an hour to go for a walk in the sun or read a book for example.
- Visualize the finished result : often my perfectionism is also born of a rather ill-defined dream… and the return to reality is difficult. If I take time, before starting a task, to visualize the finished result, I am less likely to be disappointed.
Well, I’m not telling you that everything works. But it helps me. I hope these concrete tips will help you too.