You laugh when I triple check my text messages before I send it or when I make sure that each end of a table cover is perfectly equal or when I notice that a picture frame isn’t straight. Well, it’s not funny; it’s a hindrance. Perfectionism kills.
It’s never something that I’ve wanted to admit about myself. I mean, who would want to admit that they are an over achiever that never really achieves anything because they set goals that aren’t humanly possible?
I’ve always known that I like things to be ‘perfect’ but it wasn’t until last month that I realized I had a problem. It was one afternoon when my father had come back from the store and I was helping him unpack everything. I was just about to head upstairs after putting the eggs away. As I was walking upstairs I realized “I don’t think I turned all the eggs the correct way”. (That day he had brought Eggland’s Best Eggs and I didn’t have all the eggs placed with the ‘EB’ imprint facing up.) So what did I do? Yup, you guessed it. I walked back downstairs and fixed all the eggs so that they were perfectly identical. (Then, I noticed that one side of the refrigerator was sticking out more than another so I had to fix that too.) Unfortunately perfectionist ways do have OCD traits.
What are some thoughts or actions that are associated with the perfectionist personality?
1. Fear of Failure
We’ve already established in a previous blog entry that I have a fear of failure. But, I’ve never really associated it with perfectionism. But obviously if I want everything to be perfect, and it’s not, then I feel that I have failed and let myself (and others) down. I want to be able to do something and just be the best at it. But if that doesn’t happen I automatically stamp myself as a failure.
2. Obsess Over Mistakes
I hate typos. If I tweet something or update my Facebook status and realize I made a typo I quickly delete it, pray that no one has seen it, and repost an error-free update. Before I send an email to someone I always re-read it over and over again to make sure there are no errors. If I accidently send an email with an error I stare at the email forever and wish there was a way I could take it back. It’s to the point where if I write an email on Monday, I won’t send it until Thursday because I need to make sure that it is the best it can be. (This ties into my procrastination issue.) When I was in college, friends would always send me their papers to edit because they knew I would find all the mistakes. When I want to post a comment on a blog, I type up the comment in Word first (just like I’m doing now) so that I can double check all the spelling before I press send. When I read anything I always have to highlight the mistakes (I can not stand for the life of me when people misuse ‘your’ and ‘you’re’!!)
3. Extremely Competitive
I always have to be right. My family knows that if you dare start an argument with me be prepared to lose (or at least make me feel as if I’ve won) because I will fight until I am proven right. I hate being wrong and I hate losing. I love games but I usually opt out of playing because losing messes up my whole mindset. A couple weeks ago I was at a friend’s house and we were playing Taboo. That’s one of my favorite games and usually a game I’m really good at; but that day I lost—and I wasn’t happy. I kept thinking about all the answers I could have got right and how I let the team down because I wasn’t focused. After that moment, my whole demeanor had changed. Of course, everyone noticed. One person asked me what was wrong and I said “I can’t believe we lost. I don’t know what I was thinking. I could’ve got those answers right. Now I’m going to be thinking about what I could’ve done better.” Then he said “So all the fun that you just had is totally clouded by the fact that you just lost?” That struck me. I did have a lot of fun playing Taboo that night, but at that moment losing was the only thing that was on my mind.
4. All or Nothing Mentality
This is a big one and probably the most dangerous (for me, at least). If I feel that I can’t do something perfectly, I’m not going to do it. Why do something ‘good enough’ when it can be ‘perfect’. One example is cleaning my room. Yup, something that is a simple task for most is a daunting task for me. I literally have to block out a whole day to clean my room. That’s not because it’s extra messy (although sometimes it is) but it’s more because I have to clean it a certain way. When I clean my room, naturally I wash my clothes. All of them—whether they are clean or dirty. Why? Because I need to take an inventory. Inventory you ask? Yes, I have an Excel spreadsheet on my laptop of all my clothes. Once all my clothes are washed, I hang or fold my clothes and double check to make sure that everything I have washed is on the spreadsheet. When I buy new clothes, I can’t just add it to the spreadsheet (that would be the easiest thing to do right?). Well, I need to start from the beginning of the process and wash my clothes and check items off. Unfortunately, I have a lot of clothes. I do the same thing with my jewelry/accessories. After my clothes are finished, I can clean the rest of my room :).
5. Control-Freak/Don’t ask for help
Yes! I admit it people. I love to be in control of everything. I like to control relationships. I had a friend in high school that everything I told her to do she would do. My mom used to call me the shortest bully because one of my friends, who was twice my size, said she was afraid of me. In romantic relationships, I wear the pants. If you’re shy I’m walking all over you. I like things to be done my way or not done at all. That is why I don’t like asking for help. Obviously the only person that can do the task correctly is me right?
I either don’t set goals, or set goals that are simply unattainable. If I don’t set goals, I feel like I’m a failure because I’m not doing anything productive. If I do set goals, I feel like I’m a failure because I can’t reach them. You see my dilemma? It’s bad enough that I place these expectations on myself; but it’s even worse when I place them on someone else. My issue is that I think big. Too big. I’ve always been that way. But, because I think big—but I’m afraid of failure—it’s hard for me to accomplish anything. Or at least accomplish it in a timely manner. I must say, I’ve gotten a little better at setting attainable goals and accomplishing them. I guess I am getting better at some things!!
Well, this is the short list (lol). Vulnerability is not something I enjoy (It makes you realize you’re not perfect). I want to be able to have fun and not worry about competition. I want to accomplish things and not feel the need to make it perfect, but just the best that I can do it. I want to learn how to set small, attainable goals that eventually lead me to that big picture.
I believe I will get there. The first step in fixing a problem is admitting that you have one right :).