I’m definitely a perfectionist. I like things done. Right. The first time. I like doing things well and I’m obsessed with things like order and placement. From a marketing perspective this can be considered great or even ideal. One thing that really changed my life was when I discovered perfection’s back story. Perfection is really fear, anxiety, and procrastination doing an elaborate dance.
What does that mean? I can’t speak for all people, but I can certainly speak to my own experiences. Looking over my past behaviors – which was essential to weight loss – I discovered that I would often opt to do NOTHING if I couldn’t do it PERFECTLY. Inevitably, the task I needed to do would likely take more time to complete but I’d want to do it immediately. If I didn’t have the time to do that, I’d leave it to another day.
Perfection is merely procrastination in a tuxedo.
In our last house I had an office studio where I’d make personalized items. After the holiday season it was usually a wreck. I’d open the door and want to clean it to sheer perfection. Realizing how that was impossible I’d simply shut the door and wait until I had more time. If I did get to the place where I’d actually tackle it, I’d often get so overwhelmed at the enormity of it all and shut down. Greetings Anxiety! I knew you’d show up eventually!
As I began the process for weight loss surgery, I noticed how a lot of this behavior was not only in office clean up but heavily tied to my food behaviors. I would never say, “I’m going to cook dinner tonight.” I would say, “I’m going to cook dinner every night for the rest of my life!” When I failed once at my Lifetime Cooking Goal I’d go right back to ordering out because I failed.
I had to recognize that I was constantly setting myself up for failure! In my office I could’ve planned to break down what needed to be done into smaller, more manageable tasks, set a deadline for completing those tasks, and worked toward completion. With cooking dinner I could’ve endeavored to cook that one night and work up to cooking more often.
I mind-tricked myself out of my own wellness!
My internal need for perfection would often have me procrastinating until I felt that I could accomplish something perfectly. What a realization!
As I applied this model of breaking things down into smaller and more manageable tasks, I realized it was not just in office cleanliness or wellness that I had this issue. Karate brought out a lot of this behavior. I wanted to have black belt skills as a white belt. Yeah, that’s not possible. I’d often go home after class and beat myself up for not learning fast enough or looking as good as my peers. It was challenging physically and even more mentally.
After a while, you realize that you will only get better with dedication and practice. I am not a black belt so I won’t have black belt skills. What I can do is learn and practice. I will not know anything instantly. I will have to break it down, learn it in pieces, and put it together over time.
One of the most valuable pieces to all of this is the realization that doing something – even something unbelievably small – is better than doing nothing at all. Gracefully bow out of the Dance of Perfection and Procrastination and begin.
Progress not perfection.