Hi, my name is Jilienne, and I’m a perfectionist. A recovering perfectionist! Realizing you have a problem is the first step, right? I’ve identified this personal issue before (see my very first blog post) but I’m still working on it. Apparently this isn’t something you can just “get over.” I’ve been diving into the psychology of the subject, trying to get to the root of the issue and hopefully eliminate it. I’m still in the middle of that process but I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this so I’ve decided to confess some of the things I’ve realized about the Perfectionist aspect of myself in the hopes that it will inspire some “ah ha!” moments of clarity or compassion…
Confession #1: Perfectionists aren’t perfect. (Nobody is, duh!)
I don’t see myself as perfect. In fact, “perfectionism” means I’m more highly aware of my lack of perfection. That’s part of the problem because, for some reason, I feel a need to be perfect and I’m not. It’s not really an achievable goal. I mean, there’s not much in this world that can actually be done “perfectly” and it’s just not possible to be perfect 100% of the time anyway. It’s just not. Of course, I’m not saying it’s better to give up and give in to mediocrity, far from it! The goal is simply to be better than you were the day before: self improvement with your past self as the bench mark.
Confession #2: Perfectionists feel the need to prove they’re worthy.
I recently read that perfectionists suffer from a feeling of unworthiness and it’s so true! I constantly feel like I need to prove myself. (I’m guessing this feeds into my people pleasing issue as well.) But does anyone really expect perfection of anyone else? (Aside from Russian ballet instructors… Chinese gymnastics trainers… okay, sports coaches in general! But I’m willing to bet they’re not completely perfect either.) So, where does this feeling of unworthiness come from? In my case, I really have no idea. My parents have always been very supportive and encouraging… I’ve had mostly wonderful teachers throughout my life… maybe some taunting classmates whom I’ve blocked from memory? Or all the perfectly airbrushed cover models on magazines? Perhaps it’s based in a past life? Or it could just be that darn Virgo Moon in my chart. (Where my astrology buffs at?!) Regardless of the root (which it seems I may need hypnotherapy to discover) that feeling of unworthiness is there.
Confession #3: Perfectionists are expert procrastinators.
I’ve mentioned this before: perfection paralysis. Quite often I’ll have a wonderful idea but because I can’t seem to figure out how to execute it perfectly, I never start. Or, because I’ve been trying to follow the good advice of “start before you’re ready” (like I did with this blog) sometimes I’ll hit a bump in the road and find various reasons to put off moving forward because I don’t think I’ll move forward perfectly. But things evolve! Nothing starts out as the most perfect version of itself, does it? (If something does, please let me know in the comments below, I’m super curious.) Everything in nature has a starting point and changes and improves over time and sometimes devolves (or appears to devolve) but then corrects the course and begins improving again. I keep reminding myself of this. Specifically around this blog and all of my ideas for my business(es) going forward. At some point, I just need to start. I’ll never be ready. Just like everyone tells me about having kids (which I’ve also been putting off for fear of not being ready to be the perfect parent, LOL!) You just have to start and learn as you go.
Confession #4: Perfectionists make piles.
This may surprise you (well, it won’t surprise those who’ve seen my office or my bedroom) but perfectionism does not equal tidiness. I’m a very organized person in a weirdly disorganized way. I like to have systems in place to keep track of things and make sure I can find them again easily… but if I can’t execute those systems perfectly, “need to file” piles start to form. Like, with my clothes… occasionally I’ve organized my closet by color, other times by sleeve length… so, when I don’t have time to put my clothes away in the order that I’ve set for myself, they stay folded up in the basket. (Silly, right?) And I’ve got all kinds of intricate filing systems set up at my office, but you wouldn’t know it if you see my desk; I work on so many different projects each day, moving from one to the next and back to that one… I feel like I don’t have time to put them into their proper folders and sub-folders so instead I criss-cross the piles on my desk so at least I know where to find everything I need. (It’s in the pile on my desk!) Of course, intellectually, I know that if I were to take a few minutes multiple times a day to put something where it needs to go, it would save me time in the long run… but my subconscious hasn’t received that message yet. I always start off with good intentions for filing each new year but fall back into my old ways before the new habits can form. I will change this. I know I will. I just haven’t managed it yet.
So, what are some steps to push through perfectionism? Well, for me, this blog is a big step. Pressing the “publish” button when I know there are people out there who won’t necessarily like what I’ve written scares the crap out of me but I push through my fears and do it because I know there are also people who resonate with my writing and gain some insights from it. You may have noticed a large gap from my last post to this one… that’s a perfect example of my perfectionism paralysis kicking in, with a dash of self-enabling disguised as self-care.
Let me explain… a few weeks ago, on a Sunday, I created a MailChimp account and added a newsletter opt-in to my blog with the plan to write a new post later that day. One thing led to another and I didn’t have time to write that night. Okay, that’s not entirely true… it had been a long day and I chose to veg out for a couple hours before going to bed instead of writing, thinking I’d get up early enough to write the next morning. But I didn’t… each day I kept telling myself I’d write at night but either be burnt out from work or distracted by fun and put it off to the next morning again (this is the rationalized self-enabling I mentioned; it’s not really “self-care” when you continue to put off something that aids in your personal growth.)
So, the cycle continued to the weekend when Dusty & I were heading out of town for a little anniversary getaway… then the weekdays blurred by again and all of a sudden we were heading out of town for another weekend, this time for a friend’s mother’s memorial … right after that I was out of town a few days for work… before I knew it I had such a large gap between posts that I felt my next post had to be epic and super inspirational! But of course, because I put even more pressure on myself, I procrastinated even more because each idea I had for a blog post just didn’t seem good enough…. or at least not big enough! Finally, I decided to get over it and just sit down to write and see what came out. Here it is.
I don’t know if it’s the inspirational post I wanted it to be…. it’s more of a confessional that maybe you’ll relate to. Either way, this is what poured out of me and it feels good to get something up on my blog. At least I don’t have that huge gap of time staring at me anymore. (I’m actually thinking of writing one or two back-dated posts to close the gap a bit more, is that insane? Maybe I just need to let that go and move on.) I’d really like to get on a weekly posting schedule but at this point I think that’s actually worse for my perfectionism… I’m now considering a less structured posting schedule (sort of like it has been, but now it will be done consciously.) Maybe I’ll try posting whenever I feel like it, which could result in two or three posts in one week and then a gap of a week or two. Who knows? But I hope you’ll check back to see what I’m up to. And if you don’t want to miss a post, sign up for my newsletter so I can let you know when I do post something new.
P.S. – Do you struggle with perfectionism? Or did this post remind you of someone who does? I invite you to share your stories in the comments below. Let’s get a conversation started!