Is Doing It Perfectly Actually Better?
One day, my body finally gave out on me. It was tired. And so was I.
Before that, overachieving was simply part of my personality. It was I who I was and nothing was going to change that. I was in college, taking all the hardest classes, reading every assignment page-for-page, and always getting my homework done on time. I worked three part-time jobs, played sports, kept my apartment clean, cooked, and somehow managed to have a relationship and friends. It wasn’t something I had to think about, it was just something I did.
Then, I got sick. I was competing at National Championships for the Triathlon Team at my school and I barely finished the race. After that, going for a ten-minute walk left me sitting at my doorstep in tears from exhaustion.
I had been told time and time again that I was working too hard and I needed to take some time for myself. But to be honest, I didn’t even know what that meant.
Perfectionism comes in many forms. For some people, it is feeling like failing isn’t an option, not matter what the cost. For others, it is believing that you can and should take on the world entirely by yourself, no matter how hard it gets. Sometimes it is driven by the fear of making a mistake or not being good at something. And often, it is masking one’s fear of being exposed.
Being a perfectionist is different from caring about having a professionally-finished product. Perfectionism is a behavior pattern that is caused by negative beliefs such as, “If I make a mistake or fail I will be rejected”, “I’m not good enough”, “What makes me good enough is doing things perfectly”, and “Mistakes and failures are bad”.
Working hard to put out something you are proud of is a positive thing. Doing it out of fear isn’t.
Many people think that their perfectionism drives their good work. However, we have found the opposite to be true. Perfectionism tends to cripple our creative potential, prevent us from taking risks and trying new things, and keep us stuck. Most importantly, it causes unnecessary stress, which eats up most of our energy.
Doing well in school served me well. But, being bedridden didn’t. Once I eliminated the beliefs that were underlying my perfectionism, I didn’t stop producing good results. I still did well in school, was successful at my jobs, and got done everything that needed to get done. The only difference was that I didn’t think my worth and value were dependent upon how successful or perfect I was. I was no longer afraid of making mistakes, I wasn’t stressed out all the time, and I had extra energy to fuel my passion.
Your passion and potential are fueled by confidence and determination, not by a fear of making mistakes
Michael Jordan said, “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. 26 times I have been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I have failed over and over again in my life; and that is why I succeed.”
Thomas Edison said after inventing the light bulb, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Perfectionism doesn’t serve us. It debilitates us. Finding and eliminating the underlying beliefs doesn’t make us less productive, it opens up the space for us to become our own Michael Jordan and Thomas Edison.