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perfectionism – per·fec·tion·ism \\-shə-ˌni-zəm\\
a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perfectionism)
I am writing this post just minutes after I posted (and that way, published) my temporary landing page in several Facebook groups. It has been there for a while, but now people will actually check it out. It took me weeks to get to that point – not because it took me so long to set it up. It took me so long to overcome my fears. In other words, overcome my own perfectionism.
Last week, I attended an international seminar about perfectionism. This was very helpful with regards how to work with my clients, but it made me also reflect on my own perfectionism.
I don’t want to sum it all up here, but only the part that impressed me most. A talk by British Professional Organizer and Coach Juliet Landau-Pope about how to deal with perfectionist clients, but also with your own perfectionism.
According to her, and I totally agree with that as I see it in myself, perfectionism nowadays increases more and more due to (social) media. You can find pictures, videos, stories of the perfect house, perfect dress, perfect shoes, perfect handbag, perfect vacation, perfect dinner, perfect spouse, perfect kids…. But….wait. Do these exist? No. They don’t. Media, and people like you and me, happen to prefer to only show, post, or publish perfect pictures. The beloved son playing with his cutie little sister on the beach, sunshine, all beautiful. You don’t see that seconds after that snapshot was taken, son hit his sister on the head with his shovel and she started crying like hell whilst son continued hitting her, Mom desperately tried to stop the drama and all people in a radius of 500m focused their attention on the “uncaring mother”, offering good advice.
It is even popular to state that you are a perfectionist because some people seem to think that is is expected from you, or cool, or popular these days.
So how can you find out (if you don’t already know) that you’re a perfectionist?
- You only see things in black and white. No grey. As in: My house is perfectly tidy and clean OR My house is a total mess. Not: My house is not super tidy but it still is clean and tidy enough to have friends over.
- You think your house is a total mess but everyone else – including a Professional Organizer 😉 – tells you it is perfect.
- The distribution of clutter in your house is uneven: Some areas are perfect, some are really messy.
- Your house seems spotless on the outside, but don’t you dare to open that clutter closet or spare room!
- You might even have a totally cluttered house. You are totally bothered by this on a daily basis but think something like – I can’t get it done perfectly now, so why even bother to start?
- You are procrastinating because you think you will not be able to get it right immediately.
But what is perfectionism?
In one word: FEAR. It is the fear of getting things wrong. Of not meeting (your own imaginary) standards. Of not being good enough. Of being bullied, or getting negative comments, or being judged.
There certainly are more and different explanations, but that’s what I truly believe it is.
How to overcome my perfectionism?
A word in advance: It is pretty easy to write this down. It is much harder to actually do it, and I haven’t been successful in all areas of my own life. I even secretly think that a little bit of perfectionism doesn’t hurt in my job, but sssh, don’t tell anyone!
So here is what you can try to do:
- Don’t ask why. If you start wondering why you are a perfectionist, this will clutter up your brain and stop you from taking action. You will procrastinate! But this is what you want to achieve, taking action without overthinking. So if you want to know the Why, save the time in your agenda, see a psychologist or analyst and dig deeper. But for now, leave this question alone.
- Visualize the IF, how it could be. What if you could use that dining table for eating at, instead of eating on the sofa because the dining table is piled with papers and stuff? You could have friends over for dinner, get some quality time with the family, or play board games with the kids.
- Don’t dwell in the past (I should have, what if I had….). This is about the present and the future. Put the past aside, because it again clutters your brain and makes you unable to take action.
- Don’t label yourself (as a perfectionist or procrastinator). This is not who you ARE, this is what you DO! Perfectionism and Procrastination are habits, and habits can be changed. It is hard, I have to admit, and it takes time, but it is achievable for everyone!
- Be realistic. Let go of the picture-perfect home idea. Your 80 sqm apartment will never have this 60 sqm living room you adored so much in that magazine. With kids and pets, a house is to be lived in, and not to be photographed for magazines. Both is possible, but let’s be practical, and adjust your house to your needs, and to your taste and daily life.
The perfect is the enemy of the good!
And good is good enough, most of the times (not talking about brain surgery here). Did you know that you spend 20% of your time and energy to complete 80% of a task and 80% of time and energy to complete the last 20% of it? So why not save that 80% and just send out a good enough email, cook a good enough dinner, have a tidy enough house? It costs you so much less energy that can be used for other things: me time, or kids play time, or learning a new language, or….
I have tried this, and that’s where the circle of my story is complete: I have published a landing page with stock photos, without the final fonts, with the “wrong” colours. I offered a Space Awareness Exercise and a Decluttering Challenge without being 100% sure if it is good enough. I overcame my fear, because otherwise I would never have started.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” (Henry Ford)
This is all new to me. It’s my new business. There’s a lot of fear, and I have to experiment with it. And I will get what I never got before! The pleasure of doing what is in my DNA, and what I love and enjoy, and what I find important. And if I make mistakes, I know what to do better next time. It’s basically learning by doing.
I challenge you to overcome your own fears. Experiment with the 80/20 rule. Do some imperfect things on purpose, see what happens. If it works out: Great! You saved a lot of time! You did well! If you made a mistake, you learned what to adjust. So start tidying up a room and do as much as you can. Then stop, even if it’s not perfect. Continue tomorrow. Or declutter bit by bit: one piece a day, for example.
And if you need support, I am here for you to make this process easy and fun. Contact me for your free 30-minutes Discovery Call and chat about your challenges and what I can do to help you.