Dealing With Perfectionism

Since I've been talking about overwhelm lately (herehere), I wanted to address one of the big causes or sources of overwhelm. 

It's something I know a lot of us deal with (especially us gals – women more likely than men). And when you write it out, it almost sounds like a disease. In a way, I guess it is.

It's perfectionism. (Of course it is.) 

The desire to be perfect, or to be the very best. Or, if you can't be the best, you should at least meet and then exceed the expectations of everyone around.

On the surface, I'm not really a perfectionist at all. I'm the type who puts a large amount of work and effort into a project, then suddenly tires of it, stops, and sweeps the scraps and crumbs under the rug rather than cleaning up.

Just ask my professors at SCAD. When it came to tasks I really loved and enjoyed – mastering that artist's statement, pulling inspiration and references for a mood board, creating concepts for a new collection – I was great and worked tirelessly. But when it came to my craftsmanship – finishing a seam properly, sewing a clean buttonhole – I was the worst. Patience is lost pretty quickly when it comes to tasks (like buttonholes) that don't completely interest me. My tasks were done, and isn't that supposed to be better than perfect anyway?

But that perfectionism does a damn good job of manifesting itself in other ways.

It used to show up for me with my weight, and played a big role in my feelings about myself and my body for way too long. That started around age 9, ebbed and flowed throughout those weird tween years, caused problems in my teens, and stuck with me in my early 20s. Only in the more recent years have I realized that no matter what I do or eat, within reason, my weight will stay roughly the same. Yoga has also been huge for me in the acceptance of my body. I now love the feeling of having some muscle and seeing results when I practice regularly, all thanks to yoga.

So, body image – we can mark that off the list. What else is there? What's another big thing in our lives that many of us judge our worth by? Our relationships with our friends or family? How we treat animals, or those less fortunate than us?

Nah. That stuff is important, but when it comes to our self worth, many of us (so unfortunately) give our work more weight than the way we treat others. How we achieve or overachieve seems to be the way that many of us determine our self worth. And while I don't expect that balance to ever be perfect, I for one would love to have a healthier relationship with work and the role that it plays in my self worth. What about the ability to reach satisfaction, or a saturation point? That would be nice to find.

I find myself on a daily treadmill obsessing over my career, and almost fretting anytime I step away from the desk. Should I respond quicker to my emails? Improve my writing? Better my personal brand? Have a better Instagram strategy? Tweet more? Do more? Be more? 

Perfectionism can be positive in many ways. It's a driving force, and one that pushes us forward into new careers and projects. But what about when it turns into an ugly form of The Good Girl (or boy) Syndrome? That's when it causes a problem, and that's what I deal with. And I know I'm not alone.

How many of you out there would call yourself perfectionists, and how do you deal with it? Do you even deal with it?

Despite all of this, I'm determined to make mindful decisions and focus on my mental health and the way I view myself and my work. To not let work determine my self worth, and to stop these constant strides for perfectionism that tend to so easily and often overwhelm me.

 So far, the strides I've taken to improve my mentality about work and myself haven't been perfect.

But then again, maybe that's ok.