The Problem with Perfectionists

Roller SkatesThe problem, albeit not the only one, with perfectionists is that their perfectionism isn’t limited to their areas of expertise. Oh no. Their perfectionism knows no bounds. They have to be perfect in everything they do.

At least, that has been my experience with perfectionism. I want to be perfect in both the things that are my strengths as well as the things that are my weaknesses. When I write or draw, I expect certain things from myself. When I try to roller skate – as I did on Sunday – I hold myself to some unrealistic standard. I expect to be the best, most perfect roller skater even though I have never roller skated.

The problem is that I am not the best roller skater. I am not even a good roller skater. I am an abysmal failure as a roller skater. I know I’m exaggerating, especially since I only tried to roller skate for a few minutes before surrendering to frustration and multiple falls, but that is how I feel. When I’m incapable of meeting the demands I set for myself, I feel like a failure. I become upset by those failures.

I not only become upset by the failure itself, but I also become upset about the fact that I’m upset. I know that it’s ridiculous to be agitated about my inability to roller skate. Having that knowledge doesn’t help balance my emotions; instead, I only become more upset because I have that knowledge and feel even more the fool because I’m distressed by a silly thing.

I don’t have a cure for those feelings or for my perfectionism. I try to respond to them appropriately on a day-to-day and, sometimes, minute-by-minute basis. I try to remember that I’m the only one who is setting the rigorous demands. Nobody else expects me to be the perfect roller skater. That is my expectation, and it’s one that needs to change.

Comments

  1. Wait, wait, wait. I DID expect you to be the perfect roller skater! And, now you tell me you’re not? This is insanity, Erin. Insanity!

  2. Wow, Erin…that’s a really real post and thanks for sharing that.  In simplistic terms, from reading your words here, it sounds like it’s hard for a perfectionist to kick back and just enjoy the moment.  This is probably something that would change gradually?  I’d recommend that you decide what projects/activities “don’t matter” and then just throw caution to the wind.  But I’m not the best judge: probably need to work more on my exactness.  Congrats on the new launch tomorrow; hoping to stop by. 

    •  @Jacob Yount I suppose it is hard for a perfectionist to enjoy the moment. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yes. I sometimes get caught up in improving something rather than enjoying what I’ve accomplished so far. I would like to think that I am less of a perfectionist these days, but it’s a familiar mode that asserts itself every so often. Some perfectionists also have a competitive streak (I do.), and that doesn’t help matters. I also know I’ve always struggled with not being a very good athlete. It’s an activity that doesn’t really matter and doesn’t require my attention, but I’ve always wanted to be a good athlete. When I’m put in a situation where athleticism is required, it’s difficult for me not to be hard on myself. I know the past few years have been a lot of deciding what things and people matter and throwing caution to the wind. I’d like to think that I’m improving, but I’m always a work in progress.
       
      Thanks! I hope you do stop. People who comment on Monday’s post will be entered for a chance to win a chibi/drawing.

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