I had an exercise in a Family of Origin class in Graduate school. The assignment was to present my family of origin to the class. I researched and made up the best genogram I could using posters, an easel and practiced my presentation over and over. When I got up to present the professor told me to put everything away. She told me I had to do it imperfectly. So I tried my best to mess up, make mistakes lose my place and other blunders. The class was allowed to comment and stop me if they wanted to. At one point someone said I was doing it “perfectly imperfect.” Boy was I mad, but you know what? They were right. The exercise was for me to experience how much my perfectionist attitude prevents me from taking risks and growing. I have never forgotten this lesson. So as I kept trying to write this blog, I realized I was putting it off until I had the best idea with the best research. I had succumbed to my perfectionism once again. It also happens when I ride my horse. My trainer will tell me to try something and to “get out of my comfort zone.” As I try, she will invariably say “don’t ride pretty for me!” In my mind it means go for it and if you mess up, so what! Try again.
So what did I learn from my graduate school experience and what have I seen in my private practice? Perfectionism:
1. Hurts relationships
Have you ever been in love with a perfectionist? Maybe you have one in your family. Many people in these situations feel like everything they do is not good enough. The hyper-criticism of the perfectionist breeds anger and resentment. If unaddressed the perfectionist might find themselves alone and wonder why.
2. Actually lowers productivity
Perfectionists naturally want perfect outcomes. As motivated as they are, their productivity might actually suffer since they are so preoccupied with the end result that they may become distracted. The pressure to deliver a perfect result can also create performance anxiety that takes away from productivity and performance.
3. Makes you less creative
Perfectionists like to stay with the known and not take chances. They will do anything to avoid mistakes. This difficulty with being open minded is not conducive to creativity.
4. Impacts your ability to feel compassion for others
Perfectionists can easily tell you what should happen. It is difficult for them to feel compassion for others when they are judging if others are right or wrong.
5. Costs money and resources
It is common for perfectionists to do entire projects over because of minor mistakes or flaws. This results in increase costs, more time spent and materials used.
So how is your perfectionism limiting you? I would love to hear from you!
Janneta K. Bohlander, LMFT