I am highly aware of this trait of mine and know why, and even when I developed it.
I’ve addressed it by reading about it, listening to podcasts and audiobooks about it, and even discussing it in therapy as I knew how destructive it had been for me. I could write a book about it at this stage. Despite the work I’ve put in to change this behaviour, for now, I still live with remnants of it. Depending on the day, I can surprise myself by not caring how good something that I do is. Other days, everything I touch needs to adhere to the highest of standards otherwise it’s crap. It can also determine how great, or how horrible my day will be.
While resolving this issue and analyzing my journey up to now, I came to notice something quite interesting about my perfectionism. By finally being able to take a step back, it became clear to me - I had already tried to ward it off in a way which did in fact keep it at bay for some time, but had created collateral damage that I’m only now coming to realise. You see, my instincts took over at some point. I no longer wanted to put myself in a situation where I would end up judging myself for not being perfect, and because of that, I just stopped doing anything new. If I just stuck to what I knew and what I did well, then I would surely be shielded from it all.
I remember there was a time where I would learn a new skill, or throw myself into something as a complete novice and loving the thrill. The downside was that if I couldn’t be good at it the first time, I took it upon myself to be my worst critic and got sucked into a black hole of self-defeating patterns. The more I tried, the more I would think I was shit, the less I tried. I just gave up trying.
#Perfectionism can eviscerate any notion of trying something new. Heck, you can read my very first post about getting this site off the ground and see how easily I can put myself down to do just that. At this point however, I know that if I really want to explore and seek out anything that will allow me to grow, I have to first understand that my goal for perfection is unhealthy, second, I have to prepare myself for a barrage of negative self-talk and decide whether I want to ignore it or not, and lastly, I have to just accept that I am going to suck at it. At least at the beginning.
Asking a perfectionist to be ok with sucking at something? If you are even mildly a perfectionist, I’m pretty sure your skin just crawled as you read that last sentence. As uncomfortable as it may be, ask yourself this question: Would you be ok with no longer evolving as a person in order to avoid judgement from yourself or others while trying something new?
Perfectionism is fucking rigid. It does not let you learn because it does not let you make mistakes. It does not leave way for experimenting because it does not let you veer off course. It does not let you off unless you are capable of excellence. Because attaining excellence is clearly an impossibility, the only way to fight it, as I had done before, is not to give it any opportunity to manifest itself. The problem here is that you undoubtedly stop growing as a person. You end up cemented in your ways, unable to take anything else in for fear of failing even once and being faced with an avalanche of self-hate.