“Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination” (Michael Hyatt)

Are you a neat freak? Someone who constantly re-arranges things to make them ‘look right?’ Do you never miss an appointment? Agonise over every detail of a project until you are in a complete tail spin? Spend way too long preparing for everything you do?

Welcome fellow perfectionist!

As a child I was already showing signs of this innate trait.

How many five year olds do you know of who actually enjoy tidying their toys? I clearly remember the joy, even at that tender age, of having order around me. Dolls of various sizes, their furniture and clothes, books, crayons and so on all had a special place in my bedroom. Returning things to a designated spot felt ‘right’ even then. I’m sure my parents thought this was a complete gift after three untidy sons before me.

Seriously, some of us are just born enjoying order and control. For the average adult, however, perfectionism can become a stressful, counter productive burden too. Does this ring true for you? How can we best manage this occasionally paralysing human attribute?

• Know When To Quit.
That’s right. Quitting isn’t always a sign of failure. Often it’s a sign that you’ve maturely decided to allocate scarce time and energy resources elsewhere. Smart choice.

• Make a Worry List.
Calm your nerves by writing your worst fears down on paper. A month later you’ll probably be laughing at what are mostly innocuous memories. Lesson? Don’t sweat the small stuff.

• Lose the Sense of Impending Doom.
Work, personal issues, bills – irritating ‘stuff’ – will always be there. Lighten up and move on with purpose. Rather than fixate on what needs doing – just do it!

• Don’t Agonise Over Every Decision You Make.
Everyday decisions and risks either a) turn out wonderfully and catapult us to the next place in our day (or life), or b) turn out poorly, in which case we’ve learned a crucial life lesson. Win – win!

• Don’t Let Perfectionism Steal Your Happiness.
Dr Marissa Pei (organisational psychologist, executive coach, author and speaker) explains how the pursuit of excellence in all things actually robs us of our happiness. It creates a cycle of perfectionism, procrastination and so called ‘analysis paralysis’.

• You Don’t Need External Validation.
Get out of the loop of craving validation from outside sources. You did the best you could do with the resources you had, right? Then you’ve done a good enough job and must move on! Learn to be satisfied with what you’ve accomplished.

• Silence that Nagging Inner Voice.
We are our own worst enemies. Be aware of this! Negative thoughts lead to, well…more negative thoughts.

• Hey You! Lighten up a Bit!
Perceived failures to perform/create/behave in a ‘perfect’ way are only temporary. These things do not define us or our lives. Get some perspective and move on.

• An Overactive Brain is the Devil’s Own!
Perfectionists minds tend to race constantly, causing overload and exhaustion. Try a daily five minute meditation. This gives the grey matter a chance to drop into first gear for a while and allows the brain to rest. Something as simple as focussing entirely on slow, deep breathing can work wonders.

• Gratitude Goes a Long Way.
Start each day by writing a quick list of 5 things you are grateful for. It must be specific and not say ‘friends and family’. The payoff for the perfectionist will be a chance to see in writing all the great things that you already have in your life. This daily feeling of abundance can put a lot of nit picking nonsense into focus.

• Find Balance.
‘Done’ is better than ‘perfect and never completed’.

• Boot Out Those Impossibly High Standards.
Be kind to yourself. Sometimes our crazy personal benchmarks create unnecessary anxiety over making even the smallest mistake.

• Give Yourself Permission to Fail.
An inner sense of security allows you to take risks and succeed in the future. Remind your perfectionist mind constantly; “What is the absolute worst thing that could happen here?” I guarantee you that it’s nothing as bad as you think!

As Tony Robbins (businessman, author and super coach) says; “No matter how many mistakes you make, or how slowly you progress, you’re still way ahead of everyone else who isn’t trying”

Being a perfectionist is definitely both a curse and a blessing. Don’t you agree? 

Originally published at www.sarah-virag.com


  • Sarah Virág

    Confidence Coach, Writer & Bestselling Author

    Sarah Virág BA (Hons) is a UK based Confidence Coach, Writer, Amazon #1 Bestselling Author of 'Wings for Life', Columnist, Mother of three and lifelong Nomad.