Hello, my name is Laura, and I am a perfectionist. I bet that comes as a surprise to, um, let me count them…no one! I’d say that in many senses being a perfectionist isn’t a bad thing, as long as you’re able you’re able to keep reigns on the extent to which it controls your life. But I’m realizing lately that my perfectionist manifests itself in 3 counterintuitive, flawed ways.
For one thing, part of my perfectionism includes wanting to get everything done, SO I sometimes will choose crossing things off “the list” over being meticulous and precise. This is the one that I thought seemed counterintuitive: one would think the perfectionist would want everything, well, perfect! But I take such pleasure in seeing a completed list that sometimes I don’t pay attention to all the little details along the way. Unfortunately I started noticing this one at work. I need to find a balance between the two, wherein I don’t get hung up on an individual tree in the forest and not get anything done but wherein I also look at each tree as I pass it by.
A second unhealthy outcome of my perfectionism is a tendency to not give activities their due when I feel I am not good at them. A. has noticed this one a lot when we’re playing games together. It tends to start with my getting frustrated and not having a good time and sometimes ends with me dropping it all together (though in games that tide shifts enough that I’m usually able to persevere!). Learning to play guitar is a good example of this. In high school, I really wanted to be able to play the guitar…but since I already knew how to play the piano and was reasonably proficient at it, I absolutely dreaded the time during which I would be bad at playing the guitar. So, I learned about three chords and then never picked it up again.
Which is directly related to my third issue: being so afraid of making mistakes or so overwhelmed by the scope of something that I am paralyzed and can’t figure out how to start. This panicky feeling comes upon me when I’m faced with a new task or skill. I am likely quite capable of figuring it out, but I would so much rather have someone explain it to me and tell me the steps so that I can just immediately be good at it (and get it done). I’ve always been great at tests on which I needed to regurgitate my notes…and not so great at solving problems that require me to come up with steps leading to a solution. The minute I start to see something going awry or feel like I don’t know the next step, I burst; my college chemistry lab partner/meticulous roommate can directly attest to this point.
I’m not sure what this all means, but I am realizing that these three responses to perfectionism color a lot of what I do. I don’t think I’m a bad person because of them, nor do I think I need to make a 180 degree life change. But I think identifying things about yourself is the first step to growing and maturing. So we will see where all of this leads…
Do you have any pet personality quirks? How have elements of your personality evolved as you’ve gotten to know yourself better?