Overcoming Perfectionism

by Brooke Ferguson on September 19, 2013

One of the biggest issues that business owners and all of my clients have is a disease called Perfectionism.  I call this a disease, because it is.  It is debilitating, and it stops you from getting what you really want in life.  It makes you feel awful, and it is not (by any stretch of the imagination) improving your life in any way.

Why am I being so harsh about being a perfectionist?  Because I am one!!

I have had to fight with every instinct that I have to rid myself of this disease because I have realized how much it has stopped me from one of the most important things in the business world:

Finishing Something.

Let me give you a visual reference in case you are struggling to grasp what I am talking about.

How long do you think it will take this person to Finish?

Forever?!?  You are right.

While this might seem like a dramatic example, I DO want you to take a moment and ask yourself these very important questions:

Where am I Being a Perfectionist in My Life?

Does being a perfectionist make me happy?

What am I stopping myself from doing / achieving / finishing by this behavioral pattern?

Do I expect other people to be perfect?

What Kind of Perfectionist Are You?

I would venture to say that most people have particular things that they are perfectionists about.  Whether it is the table setting, car cleanliness, or making your bed “just so”, there are certain things that we enjoy doing, AND we enjoy the results.  This is a natural form of perfectionism, and a healthy version.  It helps us to set goals, accomplish them, and feel good about our results.

Psychologist Hamachek called this “Normal Perfectionism”.

The flip-side of this (the disease I’ve referred to at the top) is considered “Neurotic Perfectionism”.

“Normal perfectionists pursue perfection without compromising their self-esteem, and derive pleasure from their efforts. Neurotic perfectionists strive for unrealistic goals and consistently feel dissatisfied when they cannot reach them.”  - Wiki

One of the things I would alter from the neurotic definition is “unrealistic timelines for goals”.  Personally, I believe in setting ridiculous goals and have pursued and achieved them.  However, from experience, I can surely say that by easing up the timeline and terms will almost always reduce the stress and produce positive results.  (Sorry, soapbox).

BUT, let’s get back to the point:

There is a Fine Line Between Normal and Neurotic.

If you are on this site, it is because you believe in setting goals and self improvement.  Both of which are extremely helpful and amazingly functional.  And, as long as you can stick to the first defitinition and feel good about your efforts, you are doing just fine.

Perfectionism becomes a problem at the point that we begin to feel distressed, defeated, and depressed.  Our Super-Evil-Self-Talk starts to say things like:

This isn’t good enough.

I’ll never finish.

I don’t even know why I bother to try.

However, all of this can be avoided by one little tip:

Give Yourself a Break.

While you may have high expectations for those around you, you do not expect perfection from them.  You allow mistakes from others, so why not start to allow them for yourself.  Try to get the negative voices out of your head by countering them with some positive ones.  You can answer them back, too, with your Super-Awesome-Self-Hero voice:

This is the best I can do right now.

It’s good enough to call it done.

I can leave this for a moment when I have more time.

Wow!  I’m almost done!!

And a tip I tell all of my clients:

80% is Good Enough!!

You might think that as a coach I push my clients to Do More — well, you are right and wrong.  Typically, my biggest ‘fight’ is to get my clients to except that Good is Good Enough, and we need to Finish something and MOVE ON.  You would be surprised just how transformative this is!  Just by making this tiny little change, I have watched people’s results literally skyrocket and their happiness grow immensely at the same time.

Consider this:  if you are a perfectionist, you are already doing a really amazing job at something.  You have paid attention, focused on the details, made sure you have looked at the situation or project from all angles.  You have done your homework, and your work.  It is for this reason that YOUR 80% is actually 110%!!  Compared to the average person who just trudges along half paying attention and barely making sense of things, you are a frickin’ ROCKSTAR!  This tip will help you to finish more things, as well as feel good about what you have done so that you are moving your neurosis back to normal and improving your self-esteem.

The Most Important Part?

By allowing yourself the room to breathe, you will actually be able to get more done, and experience greater results!

Now–That is Perfect :D!

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  • Diana Jo

    I like this post Brooke, you spoke to me and many others. It’s gonna take me awhile to grasp that 80% is good enough rule. This is the same chick that took her professor to appeal court for giving her an A(-) as a final grade.

    Perfectionism is a major reason I have not started my blog just yet, I need a perfect title, the perfect template, colours, headlines, content…did I miss anything. It’s like I have to get this right as if my life depended on it. I’m always tweeking, nothing I do is ever final or finished.

    I don’t know how to half do anything, I’m a perfectionist in many aspects of my life, I either go all the way or I don’t go at all. I don’t like mediocrity.

    However; in business, I am gonna try learn to follow the 80% rule, it will save me from a lot of stress, headaches & unhappiness.

    • http://www.businessbackpacker.com Brooke Ferguson

      Diana — Stop tweeking and start Twerking! HAHAHA (In all honesty, I’m still not exactly sure what that is yet- lol).

      It’s easy to get sucked into the perfectionism with business, especially with technology. There is usually something wrong, a pixel off or something that won’t work. At some point you have to decide to just get your work out. That has been a huge realization for me this year, that NOBODY CAN SEE IT if it isn’t out. Even if it has some flaws, at least it is out there.

      Hiding your brilliance isn’t doing the world any favors! Get it out there, girl, and let me know when it is up!!

      • Diana Jo

        Hahaha Brooke, I promise when I wrote “tweeting” I was so gonna say something about “twerking”, you said it for me, hahahaha!

        You know I will let you know when it is up:)

        • http://www.businessbackpacker.com Brooke Ferguson

          Ha – OK I will make you a deal, when you send me the site, I will put up a video of me Twerking. There is your Frightening Motivation of the week! HAHAHA

          • Diana Jo

            Hahaha ahahaha Brooke you are hilarious, that is some great motivation. I’m gonna hold you to that, lol.

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