I’m very perfectionist - in a (frequently) paralyzing-miserable-draining kind of way. I have a hard time with errors, uncertainties, difficulties and, essentially, imperfection…
As a student:
- I was the one with glasses who studied insane amounts of time;
- I was the last one to leave an exam, begging the teacher for 5 more minutes;
- Many of my practical assignments were never finished because I spent too much time attending to details;
- I always had a hard time recognizing quality in anything I did. This made me work like a crazy person and eventually I ended up with good/great results – but at an enormous cost. In the end I was feeling exhausted and miserable.
With the PhD this perfectionist tendency reached new levels of insanity. I was no longer one among many other college students. I had been chosen to do a PhD. And I had a supervisor with his eyes on me, telling everyone how important my work was. And well... Basically, I froze. Perfectionism highly encumbered my work progress (and it still does, but not so frequently).
When I’m working on my thesis these are frequent thoughts:
- This piece of work is a mess! I can’t take this messiness. I better quit…
- I’m working so slowly… This pace is ridiculous! I should be doing this much faster. I might as well quit.
- I don’t know how to solve this problem. Omg! I’m such an idiot. I better quit.
- I need to revise this piece of work 10 times before it’s finished! I can spot so many imperfections…
Crazy, right? Who can work with a mind like this? ;P
Eventually I had to learn to embrace error and imperfection. Look them in the eyes, and say: “You don’t scare me”, and “I can deal with you”, or “I can live with you”.
Learning to embrace the inevitable imperfections in my work has helped a lot in dealing with my procrastination tendencies. Not only in writing the thesis, but in many other activities I engage in – like writing blog posts :P, sewing, and even decluttering.
As Neil Fiore so wisely says – swap “I need to be perfect” for “I can be perfectly human”. How much more refreshing and liberating is the second alternative?
Life is, in itself, imperfect. Striving for perfection is, at the very beginning, a lost cause. Of course we can and should strive for quality – but without the weight of perfectionism, our labor has much more room for learning, creativity and fun! ;)
Do you have perfectionist tendencies? How do you deal with them? I would love to hear from you in the comments section :)
Note: I recently read another inspiring post on this subject. Check it out.