One Tuesday morning my husband and I were shooting a new outfit for my blog. It was a bright summer day in Munich. After we took pictures at three different spots in the city we could have been satisfied and happy about the results of our work. But something continued to be on my mind. Is it sufficient? Are the results good enough? Should we go around that corner… there might be an even better location to take pictures. Or further down the street. And again and again…finally I sat down at one of the tables of a street café, which was not open yet and said to myself: It’s enough! Did I actually become a victim of perfectionism?
Recently I’m reading a lot about how to motivate oneself. About different tricks and advices telling you how to “keep on”, “refuse to quit” and “pursue and objective”. I totally understand people who loose their motivation at times. However, there is also the other side of the coin that nearly no one seems to talk about: Perfectionism. I’m very familiar with this side myself. When I start working on something that I’m enthusiastic about I’m completely taken in by it. There exists no time, no other interests and sometimes I even forget making or ordering food. There is but one thing: to do what I’m doing as good as possible.
Perfectionism as virtue of our times
Working as a blogger I’m constantly busy checking emails, taking care about new footage for my blog as well as I’m concerned about being finishing all the small stuff. That’s what all bloggers are familiar with: A blogger is rarely able to find any peace of mind. And often I can’t resist the temptation to work on the improvement of something. To rewrite a text again or to edit pictures. Although it’s not even necessary. I know that I’m doing a good job. But why can’t I escape the feeling that there is always space for improvement?
On the other side I’m not a big fan of wisdoms like “the journey is the reward”. Even though the sentence has some important truth in it, I don’t like to stumble over endless journeys. I really like to reach my aim in order to set a new one after a short break.
But sometimes I’m asking myself: what are you doing? Is it about life and death whether these three articles are finished by today? Does it change anything if I finish them tomorrow? Nothing. And then I realize that I stress myself out for nothing.
Success is not appreciated – it’s standard
Perfectionism is the virtue of our times. Nowadays it’s almost uncool to be relaxed. At least we should seem to work at five different projects at once. To be successful is no longer good – it’s normal. We live in an achievement-oriented society. Anyone who wants to get somewhere is permanently under pressure. This creates perfectionism. And the story often ends with burnout.
In clinical trials perfectionism is seen as disorder. Well, is it a virtue or disease? – I’m asking myself while sitting at the table in the café which is still closed. Actually, it doesn’t matter what you call it, it just does not feel good. Perfectionism deprives one of enjoying the things. It’s that nasty voice that whispers: you haven’t done enough yet. You can do it better. But can it really be improved? Is it even realistic?
A strategy against the hamster wheel of perfectionism
As I was sitting in this empty café – without anything on my table, without a waiter, without other guests – I realized that this emptiness is sometimes good. Not one hundred percent. Incomplete. Then finally there is plenty of room for the creation of new things. For recreation. For oneself. I don’t want to turn into a blogging psychotherapist. But constantly “better, faster …” and what else fits in this series of adjectives – I just don’t feel like it anymore. No one dies from a mirror in the bathroom that is not always spic and span or if the blog entries for the next half year are not yet written. On the contrary: finally there is time for a cup of coffee and to think about everything you have achieved!
And for those who like me now and then hop on the perfectionism hamster wheel, I have crated an easy strategy to escape the little monster called perfectionism.
My 5 tricks to prevent perfectionism
1 Always Make a Daily Schedule or a To-Do List
Do only those things that are on your list. And don’t forget to reward yourself! All of us have a lot to do and a lot of plans. Everything together looks like a huge mountain. You feel like it would never end and that’s why you think you would have to work even faster. But if you split them things don’t look so bad anymore!
2 Compare yourself appropriately
I have made a mistake right at the beginning: I compared myself with the ones on the top. Naturally frustration will come quickly! You should never compare yourself or your own performance with those who have already reached the top. Let yourself be inspired by them – yes! But you should only compare yourself with yourself: a year ago, half a year ago or a month ago. This is very productive and makes you feel good!
3 See yourself through the eyes of another
Imagine you are your best friend. What would you say to you? When I realize that my perfectionism is on the horizon, I try to imagine exactly that – I am my best friend. I think about what I would say to myself. Mostly it’s things like, “cool”, “great performance” and “you have done it well!” We praise our friends for every knickknack, but regarding ourselves we are often too overcritical. Maybe, it is time for us to become best friends with ourselves?
4 To know when to stop
Ask yourself the question: is it enough in order to achieve the goal or to serve the purpose? If the answer is positive, you should stop. The question “is it perfect?” leads to driving you crazy. That’s because no one knows how this “perfect” looks at all.
5 Think south, think positive
Taking on the southern mentality is the best way out of the perfectionism-mania. Since I grew up in the south I’m very familar with the laid-back mentality of the people of the south. In southern Bavaria they say “ja mei!” which can mean (among other things) as much as “don’t stress yourself out!”
I hope my 5 tricks were helpful. And I equally hope that my article isn’t perfect. Otherwise it would be exactly the opposite of what I propagate here 😊 Please comment, if you have more ideas on how to get around perfectionism