Stop Pretending to Be a Perfectionist!

thomas watson

It’s time to stop labeling yourself as a perfectionist. You are not a perfectionist.

You’re just scared.

Like me.

Please understand, I’m saying this as a textbook “perfectionist.” Through most of my life, I put my dreams and plans on hold in the name of “perfectionism.”

You see, here’s the problem for people like me: Perfection is impossible. Therefore, if you wait until you’re ready to be perfect, you will never take action. And if you never take action, your results will be anything but perfect! So true “perfectionists” really aren’t perfectionists.

When you wake up in the morning, you get all spiffed up for the day and head to work. Could you look a little better, dress a little better? Sure, but getting to work on time takes priority.

You get to the office and respond to a few emails. Could you have written better, reached out better, taken better advantage of some opportunities? Yes, but you’ve got bigger fish to fry.

You work pretty hard the whole day on that report your boss is waiting for. It’s due tonight, so you stay a little more focused than usual. But you still take a couple breaks to catch up with your co-workers. Helps keep you sane.

At the end of the day, you take a deep breath and hit print. You’re not completely satisfied, but you did your best. And your boss won’t wait forever. You turn in your report and head home. Proud of your work, but okay with the fact that you’ll always have room for improvement.

You know what’s crazy, though? That’s a typical day in the life of a self-diagnosed “perfectionist.” They aren’t REALLY perfectionists! Any true perfectionist would never finish grooming in the morning, never get through an inbox, never take a break, and never hit print!

So why do we say we’re “perfectionists” when we really settle for less than perfect every day?

Because it gives us an excuse to NOT do the things we’re too SCARED to do!

Here’s my shameful story of addiction to “perfectionism.”

I had so many things I wanted to accomplish, but I rarely even got started on them.

This is how it went–all day, every day:

Ambitious Me: “Why don’t I start that project?” Perfectionist Me: “No, I only have half an hour before my next meeting. I should wait until I can really focus–I don’t want to do a half-hearted job.”

Ambitious Me: “I should start a blog!” Perfectionist Me: “Are you crazy? Nobody would read it! You need to research blogging way more first!”

Ambitious Me: “I should try cooking a meal to surprise my girlfriend!” Perfectionist Me: “Whoa, you’re not nearly the cook yet. How embarrassing would it be if she wasn’t impressed?”

Ambitious Me: “I really need to reply to that letter.” Perfectionist Me: “You’re way too busy to give it the focus it deserves, let’s wait till we have more time on our hands. Surely it’ll happen soon enough.” 

As if I’d ever have the time and expertise to achieve “perfect” on my first shot.

(And here’s another problem. The more you put off in the name of perfectionism, the bigger your to-do list gets, and the less able you feel to focus on perfecting anything.)

Ask yourself this question for me–no, for your own sake: Are you really a perfectionist? Or are you scared of facing our imperfect reality?

There are so many things in life that you could accomplish, if you’d just give yourself permission to let go of your fear of less-than-perfect results. But you’ll never accomplish anything if you don’t take that first feeble step.

Just like you’ll never get to work on time if you’re a perfectionist getting dressed and doing your hair, you’ll never become a successful writer if you’re a perfectionist writing your first blog post.

You’ll never be successful at anything if your “perfectionism” keeps you from taking real action, NOW!

And if we’re being honest, when our “perfectionism” slows us down, it’s not about our commitment to the concept of perfect, it’s about our fear!

You’re not a perfectionist. You’ll never be a perfectionist. And the harder you try, the less you’ll accomplish.

Do you want to be great? Give yourself permission to start practicing!

“The formula for success is quite simple: Double your rate of failure.” – IBM founder, Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

Let go of your fear of failure, and fail your way to the top!

What do YOU think?

Author: Peter Elbridge

I am a lifelong learner and avid reader, which translates into doing smart work for myself, my team, and my clients. I have a passion for effective leadership and an even bigger passion for helping others do and feel better. I have a lot of experience in communication, public speaking, and writing. Above all, I have a deep and genuine care for every life I touch. That's why I write. (My opinions and endorsements are my own and do not represent my employer.)

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