Recovering from Perfectionism

In an article on the website Linda Binns admits:  “I’m a recovering perfectionist. I say recovering, because it’s not something that you get over very easily. I have discovered though that being a perfectionist can hold you back tremendously… and drains your energy.” I admit to this as well, and agree with her wholeheartedly, and I’m sure all of you know how much of a perfectionist I am. And of course many or most pharmacists are a little OCD (or a lot, haha), and that’s a good thing. For many years I worked in a setting where 99.9% accuracy was LITERALLY not good enough, we worked for true error rates of <0.05%, and that was also a good thing. But it’s not ALWAYS a good thing!

The following are some articles I have found helpful relating to perfectionism.

The Roots of and Recovery from Perfectionism   by Thomas Greenspon

Perfectionistic behaviors include such things as over commitment, super sensitivity to criticism, compulsive attention to detail, and procrastination; Perfectionistic thoughts can include, “I’m never good enough,” “I’m only acceptable if I’m perfect,” and, “If I make a mistake, there’s something wrong with me; Perfectionistic feelings include disgust with oneself, anger,anxiety, and shame.

  • Perfectionism may be bad for your mental health. One definition of perfectionism is “a pathological pursuit of usually unobtainable high standards that is strongly linked to anxiety, depression, and eating disorders “. A pathological concern with wanting to ‘be perfect’ can lead to worry, regret, fear of the future (with all its possible failures). No wonder it seems correlated with depression.
  • A perfectionist sees reality in simplified all-or-nothing ways. There is ‘perfect’ and then there is ‘useless’. No gradation. ‘Good enough’ doesn’t tend to figure. 
  • Perfectionism is built upon a pile of assumptions as to how the world works – or rather, how it should work.  (Don’t should yourself!)

7 practical tips to escape the tyranny of perfection by Mark Tyrrell.

1) Cut some slack for yourself: Cut back on things that need to ‘be perfect’. Is it really vital to have every CD in your collection perfectly aligned or all your books spaced exactly evenly from one another?

2) Cut slack for others: Being a perfectionist and inflicting that on others is really a way of trying to control people. Remember people are who they are, regardless of how you feel they should be. What makes us human are our foibles and, yes, weaknesses. Don’t be an unintentional bully.

3) Learn to see life in all its shades: Learn to think in gradations: Do you really think anything less than 100% is zero?Over-simplified all-or-nothing thinking isn’t a perceptive, sophisticated, or accurate way to evaluate much of life.  Recognize what’s good enough and move on.

4) Develop humour: Humour is flexible; it enables us to see beyond rigid, fixed viewpoints. Hang out with and learn from funny, relaxed people. Who was it that said: “Life is too important to take seriously”?

5) Remember mistakes are not catastrophes. Well, not usually…: Not making mistakes means never having the opportunity to truly learn and develop. In some contexts, mistakes can even be encouraged so we can move beyond them more quickly.

6) Don’t use perfectionism as a reason to procrastinate: If a journey is worth making, then false starts and temporarily getting lost matter little if the final destination can still be achieved.

7) Stop over-applying negative outcomes: Psychologists call this ‘globalizing’ and it’s a hallmark of intolerance. People with low self-esteem, for example, are intolerant of themselves.  As I said, intelligent people do dumb things,but are still generally bright. Decent people may occasionally be less than kind, but are still generally good people.

A couple other thoughts:

  • Choose ease: Pushing, striving, trying too hard, or being in “fight-or-flight” mode all the time is beyond the desire for excellence and into perfectionism territory.
  • Perfectionism is the enemy of the good: In many cases, 90% of the pain of perfectionism comes from trying to eke out that last 10%, when 90% is pretty damn excellent.
  • Know your inherent worthiness: As long as we look outside ourselves for validation that we are enough, we will always be tempted to over-deliver. Try repeating affirmations that remind you that your value lies within. “I am more than enough.” Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Hope you find some of these interesting and helpful. Oh, and by the way, CaringBridge re-formats the paragraphs layout and runs words together no matter how many times you correct it.  And that’s OK!  Right?????  Bahhhahahahahah!! AND… I volunteered at the food pantry today and didNOT “face” or perfectly realign the cans that were off kilter a bit.  Now, I’m not saying that I didn’t WANT to, but I didn’t.  Baby steps and humor!  <grin>Perfectionist


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s