Perfectionism & Working Against Yourself

I'll admit it, I am a perfectionist.  I can also tell you with complete honesty that almost every single one of my clients is a perfectionist as well (yes, even the ones who are up to their ears in junk, paperwork, and old garage sale finds).

It sounds so nice and frilly doesn't it?  Some people even think you're bragging when you say that, but the truth is, being a perfectionist means you're working against yourself 99% of the time.

Think about it...if you have impossibly high standards for most things that you do, an über critical voice in your head that berates you at every "wrong" turn, and a bunch of abstract rules that you picked up in life about what things should be like, or look like, etc. things get overwhelming pretty fast.  Talk about tension.

One day you're a child who is just trying to impress everyone in the class with your immaculate paper mache hamster, which is kind of charming, and the next thing you know, you're a grown adult and you're spending 45 minutes writing an email that's about a paragraph long and having meltdowns over cupcakes that "don't look like the picture."

It's a wonder that perfectionists get anything done, because we're so focused on doing it the right way, that sometimes the burden gets too heavy and we just give up.  That's the epitome of working against yourself.

Next time you find yourself in that self-critical, and self-sabotaging perfection mode, ask yourself what's really important.  Does it really have to be right?  What exactly does right even mean, who defines that, and why does this matter to me so much?  There's always an alternative, and it usually involves a more efficient, perfectly acceptable and sometimes an even better solution than your internal rules would allow.

It's good to give out quality work and to have standards, but there comes a point where you've gotten in your own way and you have to back up, calm down, and realize that making progress is what matters.  After all, you don't want to miss the beauty of the whole forest over the fact that you're obsessing over one of the trees.

Calling all you other perfectionists out there, I'd love to hear how you've learned to tame your own impossible standards.  How do you keep from working against yourself?