How Striving For Perfection Makes Me Want To Be Average

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perfectionI admit, I have a Type-A personality. Some characteristics that are ingrained in my being are impatience, competitiveness, time urgency, and ambitiousness. Oh yeah, and I’m pretty much incapable of relaxation.

There are some very tough challenges that come with striving for perfection, other than the fact that it’s simply not possible to be perfect all the time. Here are some of the biggest challenges I face and how I try to keep my overachieving personality in check.

Stress

Not being able to relax makes it difficult to limit stress. Of course, this has numerous health repercussions, which thankfully, I have avoided so far. But I do know that a high daily level of stress is probably not healthy.

To battle this, I force myself to take breaks to avoid burning out, prioritize, and set boundaries with my clients. And I also focus on being consistent in the way I manage my work environment.

Driving My Family Nuts

Well, maybe not nuts, but I know my perfectionism, especially when it appears as a lengthy to-do list on a Saturday morning, definitely effects my family. One of the things I do is let other family members have a say in the weekend plans (aside from my to-do list). I also try to plan family time that is work-free, so we can all benefit from time together.

Holding Myself Back

Sometimes my desire to do it all, and do it all perfectly, makes it difficult to take on new opportunities. At times, I have found myself thinking that if I can’t do something perfectly and to 100% of my ability, then I don’t want to do it. While this is not generally a bad thing, it sometimes deprives me of new experiences.

I try to gauge each opportunity as it comes along in terms of three things: 1) How my participation will be valuable to others, 2) How it will benefit me, and 3) What’s the worst case scenario if I am not able to do it perfectly. Usually, this gives me enough of a reality check to realize when a valuable opportunity comes along and to jump on it.

Despite some of the negative connotations of being Type A, though, it has been tremendously beneficial in my career. I’ve been able to take matters into my own hands and just go for it when I was dissatisfied with my corporate job. I’m driven, and I rarely give up when I set my mind to accomplishing something. I’ve been able to provide great service to my clients by being dependable, detail-oriented, and able to conquer even the most challenging projects.

At the end of the day, we are who we are and we all have positive and negative traits, regardless what type of personality we have. The best thing we can do is embrace our positive personality characteristics and continue to work on those that we find challenging. The key is to recognize that we all have room for improvement and that not being perfect is okay. In the words of the great Laurie Berkner: “I’m not perfect, no I’m not. I’m not perfect, but I’ve got what I’ve got.”

Do you have personality traits that you find challenging? Do you fight the perfection battle?

Image credit: Ove Topfer

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  • bebopdesigner

    No matter how much I try Zen my way through things, sometimes I get too anxious and I can’t think straight. Thanks for sharing and letting us share.

  • Bob Crevas

    I find that long sessions without sleep aren’t always good for my work. You’d think working for 30 consecutive hours would be great for productivity, but the quality can drop at times.
    More than once I’ve looked backed at my work after a crazy coding session only to find that my hands weren’t properly aligned over the keyboard, and I have 2000 lines of rubbish. Whoops :)

  • Howard

    It all depends on who you ask to. Once person’s perfectionism might just be average to someone else.

  • Jackie

    It is good to know that I am not alone in my battles of stress and time management. Being a full time student and working I find I am very sleep deprived and never have any time for myself apart from doing assignments. Even when I can find a few hours where I can get to sleep, I can never turn my brain off and just think of all the things I have to do which causes me to feel anxious and restless that I am not working on my studies to get the perfect mark. Unfortunately my family and social life suffers from not having any time. I always use the excuse “it will be better in a year or so” but that time never comes. Life is very busy and hard these days and I am sure I am not alone in thinking that.

  • nythemes

    Not only is it not possible to be perfect all the time, it is not possible to be perfect EVER, te sooner you understand that the better for you!! Perfection is an illusion you may pursue it, but you will never reach it.

  • http://www.turtlereality.co.uk jont17

    You seem like somebody who could benefit from some happiness:

    http://www.makeeverybodyhappy.org/

    Success is only a way of finding happiness, why not take out the middle man and go straight for happiness??

  • http://www.scottradcliff.com ScottRadcliff

    I could have written this post, it describes me to a tee, with a few modifications. I am a perfectionist, and I constantly strive to be the best. While to most this may seem unhealthy, I see it as motivation. Here is how I approach it, I strive to be absolute best whether it is in just in my area or within a group of people. I know I will never achieve this goal, but it gives me a concrete sign as to what I need to improve. In addition to that, when someone is better than me, I can learn from them. I can learn better ways to do what I am doing, leading to better efficiency.

    The other side of that is sometimes I am better than those around me. This provides me the perfect opportunity to teach others, to bring their skills up to mine. Usually this ends up forcing me to get better as their skills may surpass mine. Raising the bar, for lack of a better term.

    So, perfectionism is a good thing, and I think everyone should be shooting for the stars while making adjustments on the way.

    -Scott

  • phpballer

    I’m a perfectionist too, but my side effect is procrastination. Because I don’t see things as being perfect sometimes I will never finish what I started. I’ve read so many books on web design and development in a quest to be the perfect designer developer, but I have very few tangible accomplishments.

  • MarkAyre

    Perfectionism is indeed a strange beast to tame but when combined with idealism a potent adversary. Like others experience has helped me temper the effects (with varying degrees of success) so I will be reading the included links with interest..