A few days ago we threw a common belief about perfectionism in the trashcan. This false belief that perfectionism is a collection of traits, like type A, attention to detail, and being very organized.
I don’t blame you for falling for this myth. It’s how perfectionism is portrayed in popular culture. It’s how we talk to each other.
She’s so type A, she’s such a perfectionist!
Stop fussing over details, you’re such a perfectionist!
So many women think that to let go of perfectionism means having to let go of being type A or of being organized. And that causes anxiety (it would for me!).
No wonder we’re so stuck in perfectionism. No wonder we’re so conflicted about letting go of our perfectionism.
To help you untangle this false belief even further, here are 5 reasons you’re a perfectionist (and it’s not what you might think).
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1. False belief: you’re diligent and conscientious. Actual reason: you’re constantly second-guessing yourself
You’re a perfectionist because you can’t stop second-guessing. You’re probably also bothered by its obnoxious second cousins ‘overthinking’ and ‘indecisiveness’.
When you’re rocking your talent of being conscientious, sometimes perfectionism creeps in: “Am I missing something?“ or “Should I do it more like this?”. This usually happens when you’re working on an important project and you start to feel uncertain about if you were really diligent enough and you wonder if you should’ve done more.
When you find yourself thinking in terms of ‘enough’, that’s when you know you’re treading dangerous perfectionism waters.
Being diligent and conscientious is your talent. When you’re second-guessing, that’s when perfectionism is running the show.
2. False belief: you have a keen eye for detail. Actual reason: you can’t let go
You’re a perfectionist because you just can’t let go. Paying attention to details is a great talent to have. It sets you apart from others.
But when you’re so focused on #allthedetails, trying to make sure that you’ve handled every little detail and not letting go before it’s perfect, that’s dangerous perfectionism territory.
This holding tight to the idea of perfection is what’s actually standing in your way. It’s what keeps you stifled and unable to move. It just sucks up all of your energy.
Having a keen eye for detail is your talent. When you’re not able to let go, that’s when perfectionism is running the show.
3. False belief: you favor quality over quantity. Actual reason: you’re stuck in comparison
You’re a perfectionist because you can’t stop comparing yourself and your work.
Favoring quality over quantity is a great talent to have. It becomes dangerous when you feel uncertain or insecure and you start comparing. Perfectionism is when you’re comparing yourself to other people and you’re attaching more value to their ideas, their work, and their expertise. You think their ‘quality’ is better than your ‘quality’.
The key here is to not let yourself get distracted by someone else’s shiny pennies. They aren’t perfect and don’t have things figured out as well as you think they do. Don’t underestimate yourself. Your ideas and your work are of great quality, even if they aren’t perfect.
Favoring quality over quantity is your talent. When you keep falling for the comparison trap, that’s when perfectionism is running the show.
4. False belief: you have high standards. Actual reason: you have unrealistic expectations
You’re a perfectionist because you have unrealistic expectations. Having high standards is a sign of motivation and self-discipline and it doesn’t mean you’re a perfectionist.
In fact, most successful people set very high standards for themselves. The punishing pursuit of perfection happens when you’re worried about mistakes… mistakes you fear you’ll be making when trying to make those high standards happen.
Although having high standards is often helpful, perfectionism is about having expectations that are so unrealistic that they actually interfere with your performance. Plus, it’s impossible to live up to those expectations.
Having high standards (and holding yourself to them) is your talent. When you act based on unrealistic expectations, that’s when perfectionism is running the show.
5. False belief: you work in a structured and organized manner. Actual reason: you’re a control freak
You’re a perfectionist because you have this need for control.
Many people wish they could have your talent of being structured and organized. But that’s not the same as being a control freak. A control freak is someone with a need to control other people, situations, and environments to relieve their anxiety and create a sense of security. They use their perfectionism to cover their insecurities and fears.
Are you constantly redoing things to make sure they’re absolutely perfect? Do you find yourself noticing pictures on walls that are slightly crooked and straightening them, even if it’s in someone else’s home? Do you criticize and find faults with others, but in your mind you’re always right?
The way you work - in a structured and organized manner - will lead you to excellence. Perfectionism leads you nowhere. Perfectionism is about controlling the outcome in order to receive love and acceptance. Excellence, unlike perfectionism, is about lovingly pushing yourself to act, think, relate, and create from the highest part of yourself.
Working in a structured and organized manner is your talent. When you get caught up in your control issues, that’s when perfectionism is running the show.
Perfectionism is a coping mechanism that you use when you feel scared, insecure, uncertain, and/or not good enough. Do you see in the examples above that perfectionism can “hijack” your talents, whenever you start to feel scared, insecure, uncertain, and/or not good enough?
What you need is a way to stop your perfectionism from swooping in and hijacking your talents.
Want a headstart in overcoming your perfectionism? Then make sure to download your FREE copy of the 10+ page, step-by-step, perfectionism-busting workbook. Just click the button below.
Hi there! I’m Wendy, perfectionism coach and host of the #perfectionistproblems community for recovering perfectionists. I’m insanely passionate about helping you overcome your perfectionism, so that you can stop caring so much about what other people think and finally take on those dream projects that you've been putting off for so long.