I’ve always had a perfectionist nature, or at least a nature that was leaning that way. When I was younger, I thought it was a good thing because I always did things well, or to the best of my ability and I was proud of that. Nothing was done sloppily and without my best effort. It was a good thing back then – all was harmless. However, now that I am older, I realize that real ‘perfectionism’ is SO not a good thing. It has the capacity to hugely affect my well-being. Have you ever seen this quote below?
Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order
There is a difference between enthusiastically doing things well and being a full-on perfectionist! In the case of being a full-on obsessive perfectionist type, YES – it can become a form of self-abuse.
I can recall perfectionist traits right back in my childhood. I loved colouring-in and I was very good at it. I never went out of the lines. I made sure all colours were well coordinated and were suitable for the picture. I remember spending enormous amounts of time decorating the covers for my school assignments. They had to be just right! I used to absolutely love the end of the Christmas school holidays when time came to cover school books for the new school year. I would diligently find and cut out pictures to decorate the front of my exercise books. I would cover my exercise books in brown paper and ensure the corners were folded neatly and correctly and would meticulously cover all my text books in clear contact in a very precise and particular way. All of this was harmless of course. My well-being wasn’t affected at all … but looking back I can see the little signs and traits that signal what would come in my adult years.
Zoom ahead to adulthood and to my married life before kids – perfectionism used to manifest in the form of me making sure my house and garden were perfect. The lawn never had a weed. If one popped up, I would quickly whip it out. I would even resort to trimming the grass with a pair of scissors if there was an uneven area that was annoying me. I would clean and arrange the house like a woman possessed. This was all still pretty harmless though. I had no children and my house was my pride and joy. I didn’t really see these activities as perfectionism and my well-being certainly wasn’t affected. I had plenty of time on my weekends and I got everything done that I wanted to within those hours.
These days my perfectionism doesn’t manifest that way anymore. Having children cured that side of me. Having a perfectly clean and tidy house and garden was a battle I could no longer win. These days my perfectionism manifests in other ways and has become far more obsessive and self-destructive. It can really tip my life off-balance and yes it can affect my well-being. It’s something I’m conscious of and need to monitor all the time.
These days my perfectionist side comes to the fore in my working life. When I was still working in the corporate world, I gave my job more than 100% of me. I remember having so much work that it was impossible to get through it all during a work day. I really wanted to catch up and get ahead. I wanted to impress – myself, my peers, management but not only that, I wanted to feel in control. So I would take work home and work late into the night. I had no regard for my well-being. My focus was firmly latched on getting ahead and achieving. I was exhausting myself and making myself sick but I didn’t yet know it. I wasn’t impressing anyone – how ridiculous – none of my peers or management noticed or cared. By the end of each week, I had given so much of myself that there was nothing left of me for my family when I got home. On weekends, I crashed and burned. It was a struggle to get even the basic household chores done. The rest of the weekend was a desperate attempt to recharge for the week ahead. If there were social engagements, I knew I was in trouble because that took away from my precious recharge time. I turned down as many of them as was possible. Recharge time was vital for me not only because I would have exhausted myself striving for perfection but because I am an introvert (though to others I can appear to be an extrovert). During the work week, I would be in lots of daily meetings, I’d be communicating with all sorts of different personalities every day. A week of being social all day, every day totally depleted me. There’s a whole other blog post I could write about being an introvert and most likely at some point I will!
I went looking for a list of perfectionist traits so that you could see how self-destructive perfectionism can be, and I was not disappointed. I found a great list by Celestine Chua:
All of those traits listed above are me to an absolute T – every one of them. I was very good at being the best at stuff I was not interested in. I did it for decades! Since leaving the corporate life (for reasons that had nothing to do with me being a perfectionist but reflecting back was a very good move because of that fact), I decided to take some time to rediscover myself and discover what I like to do. I decided that I would create a life where I would ‘love what I do and do what I love’ and … I’ve been doing that. I started a blog that helped me learn lots about myself. I studied photography and I graduated. I started another blog.
Lately though, I’ve become aware that my perfectionist nature is rearing its head again. I have started putting far too many pressures on myself again (with regards to my blog and my photography) and am finding myself again working away day and night during the week and on weekends and obsessing too much over what I do – trying to get everything perfect and do everything perfectly. Thankfully, I know myself and the warning bells are ringing loud and clear. Even when you are doing what you love and loving what you do – you can still neglect yourself – as I have a tendency to do! I am very aware that sometimes I lose my ‘off switch’ and just keep going and going and going. I’m also very aware of the need for me to set much firmer boundaries of when I work and when I don’t work – now that I am working from home. Then there is the need for me to work out how best to divide up of my time between my blog and my photography business. One of the pressures I have put on myself which most annoys me is the pressure to start earning some money. I haven’t earned a cent since I walked away from the corporate life. I’m annoyed that I’m feeling the pressure (put on me by myself and myself only!) to earn some money because I don’t want money to drive what I do. It is my hope that I will eventually earn some money as a result of what I do.
But you know what I’m hearing really loudly? I’m hearing that I really, really, really need a holiday!
I think I’m just so darn tired!! When I think about it, I have been ‘working’ non-stop for over two years and it has been constant, relentless learning! Over two years of reading, researching, writing, photographing, learning, assignments, and more learning. I need to practice what I preach and take better care of myself! Thankfully, I have 5 nights booked at Burleigh Heads in mid-December and I can’t wait! I intend to unplug for that entire time, apart from the occasional photo on Instagram (won’t be able to stop myself doing that). Then next year, it will be our 30-year wedding anniversary and I am hoping for a longer holiday (at least 2 weeks) – a nice trip away somewhere special where we have never been before. I will be unplugging (except for Instagram) for that one too.
What I also need to do is to stop and take the time to celebrate my achievements so far!
Lets take a quick little look at some of my achievements over the past couple of years:
- I’ve invested a lot of time over the past 2+ years learning about blogging. It’s been a pretty brave move for a perfectionist, private, introverted, middle-aged woman who knew nothing about blogging at all but instinctively knew that it would suit her! I don’t think it can be underestimated just how confronting it can be to reveal yourself online and that is what you do when you blog. Obviously, you keep many things private but people don’t connect with you unless you are willing to show up on your blog as your genuine and true self willing to share your insecurities, failures, wins, fears, lessons learned in life etc etc … and that is what I do! I am far from perfect, I’m always learning and my blogging shows that!
- I studied and graduated with a Diploma of Professional Photography! What an awesome achievement that is and you know what – I did nothing to celebrate it! That needs to be rectified.
- I decided on the name of Marguerite Louise Photography, got a logo designed and started photography Facebook & Instagram pages.
- I took the initiative to close down my first blog when I recognized I had outgrown it and needed to move on.
- I’ve bought domain names, got an ABN and a PO Box, registered business names and all that stuff!
- I had a vision to create a new blog that I could be proud of. I came up with an awesome name and tagline for my new blog (well I think so! haha) and knew how I wanted it to look. I knew instinctively that I wanted to create a blog for the middle-aged, for people seeking balance of mind, body and spirit and for photography enthusiasts. Along with Katrina we created this lovely new space.
- Best of all is the fact that as a result of adversity, I was blessed with an opportunity to take a good chunk of time to really invest in myself for the first time ever in my life. Over the past 2+ years I have learnt a lot of really good stuff! Yes – I’ve learned a lot about blogging and photography but more importantly I’ve learnt some pretty valuable life lessons – some as a result of my own experiences and some from research, reading and reflection.
So yes – I’ve achieved a lot that I have not taken the time to reflect on and celebrate. Tsk tsk – but alas – another lesson learned! Everything is all about perspective! 😉
I’m sharing all this as a reminder to YOU. Perfectionist or not, we all need to be more mindful of showing some respect and love towards ourselves. We are important too! We need to be aware of our individual weaknesses and personal traits that threaten our well-being, do a regular scan/audit of ourselves, and take action when we notice things going off-balance.
Because I am aware that things are a little off-balance for me at the moment and the fact that we are at a very busy time of year, I’ve decided that this will be my last Thursday post for a while. I am cutting back to 3 posts per week for now, so that means I’ll be posting on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays – at least until Christmas and New Year’s festivities are over and we are settled into the new year. Then I will re-evaluate.
Did any of the 10 traits of a perfectionist strike a chord with you? Recognize yourself in any of them? Are you a perfectionist? If you are, how does it manifest in you? Can you recognize when it is starting to affect your well-being? What do you do to help yourself? How long has it been since you took the time to reflect on your achievements and celebrate them?
Ciao for now,
p.s. The image at the top of this post is a photograph of a plant in my front garden to which I applied an arty affect in Photoshop. I love playing around with things like that! 😉
Linking up with With Some Grace for #FYBF
I have worked hard the last 3-4 years at letting go of my perfectionism. It is tough. It I have made heaps of progress and still moving forward. I used to spend 2 hours to create blog posts and now can do it in 20-30 minutes depending on the subject. I no longer ache over making it the best ever post but just write and trust what comes out then just edit/ proofread.
The areas I am still in trouble are expectations of others and my own high standards as I start ICD. As you know we are in the same boat with that one. I think a break and celebrating your achievements are a great way to end the year. And I will be in touch about getting together. Xxx
Wow Deb – another thing in common. I think at this rate we will talk each others ears off when we do manage to catch up!! lol I originally wrote this blog post over a week ago. You would not believe (or maybe you would) how many times I have revisited it, reviewed, reworded and so on. How ironic is that?! Really looking forward to catching up with you. 🙂 xo
According to your list I’m certainly no perfectionist! I think it will speak more to dear hubby who is one. It’s good to take time out to reflect especially at the end of the year when we’re tired and just crazy busy! You should be proud of all your achievements, Well done! x
Well you are very lucky then Steph as I wouldn’t wish perfectionism on anyone! I hope your hubby monitors his and doesn’t let it run him down and affect his wellbeing! xo
I had an inkling I was a perfectionist but you have confirmed it – however I’m only like this is some parts of my life, mainly my writing and work, certainly not my housework! Love your suggestions and I’m trying hard not to make my kids pick up on my traits!
I’m only like it in my working life nowadays too Em. Can’t see any sign of it in my kids 🙂 x
I am a perfectionist in recovery. Since becoming a mother it has become very difficult to do everything to my high standards and I have had to learn to let it go. I think my biggest wake up though was when my daughter started showing signs of perfectionism, obviously learnt from me, and I don’t want her to live stressed when things aren’t perfect. I do slip back into it every so often and when I do I get exhuasted to point of breakdown. Great post!
Thanks Malinda. I thought I was in recovery too. I suppose I am – just experiencing a bit of relapse! I was cured of having the perfect home and garden when I had kids – but it transferred to my work life sadly!! I still like a tidy/uncluttered house coz cluttered house/cluttered mind etc…. however I don’t go crazy cleaning and perfecting the house like I used to. 🙂
Its funny I would say I am slap dash with a side of perfectionist 😉
I can be very, very, very slap dash about some things and then go OTT with other things like when I cook I trash the kitchen I make so much mess and I never hang the washing on the line neatly, like ever haha it is always ski wiff and yet organising kids birthday parties, dance mum stuff, packing healthy yet tasty lunchboxes, school hair and uniform each morning and arriving on time, my work of styling and taking food photography photos or doing a cooking event I will obsess over EVERY tiny detail until everything is perfect, even at the cost of sleep and sanity and possible an ulcer! 🙂
I really like your ‘slap dash with a side of perfectionist’! I think I’m kinda ‘perfectionist with a side of slap dash’! lol There are quite a lot of things that I do that is ‘good enough’ but yet when it comes to my work – my photography, my writing, my blog – nothing is every good enough and yes – I will obsess over every minute detail until it is as close to perfect as I can get it and yes – at the cost of sleep, sanity and possibly an ulcer!! It’s quite comforting knowing there are others like me 😉
I hear you! I read something in the new Amy Poelher book that I’m going to write about shortly, about not letting it hold you back….
I’ll have to keep an eye out for that post that you are writing shortly. I’m not aware of Amy Poelher’s book. I’ll have to google it! 😉
I’m a conforming perfectionist. I still have a couple of the traits but as soon as I’m conscious of them, I need to take a deep breath and reassess.
Enjoy your little holiday to Burleigh Heads. It’ll be a well deserved holiday, I’m sure x
Wow Grace – impressive that as a conforming perfectionist you only have a couple of those traits left to keep watch on!! I will SO TOTALLY enjoy my little holiday to Burleigh Heads. I really need it and will enjoy every moment of it! 🙂