Flawless: good for your eyebrow game, bad for your well-being. That’s according to Dr. Margaret R. Rutherford and her new data on “destructive perfectionism,” a drive to succeed that’s powered by a fear of failure, not a love of success. Her studies show that if routine errors (like forgetting to attach an email file, or coming up blank at a brainstorming session) lead to “inner voices of shame” and “blame spirals” instead of momentary shrugs, you’re more prone to burnout and depression, and less likely to maintain the energy you need to succeed. That’s why Harvard Business Review recently declared “perfectionism has become a business liability” during times of crisis, aka the multiple dumpster fires of 2020. How to get better? Try reframing projects as “experiments” for long-term success, and take a few minutes before a big meeting or work session to ask yourself, “What do I love about this? What can I learn from it?”The Newsette on August 28
Let me tell you; any error is NOT my jam. The smallest little hiccup has me going in a downward spiral. I push and push to exceed expectations, but the moment someone points out a minor flaw, I’m forever tormented by it. And it got me thinking about it at 2:54 am for no rhyme or reason.
I then go into questioning why can’t I do things right. Why I can’t comprehend something so “easy.” It’s an up and down “emotional rollercoaster.” One day, I honestly could give two shits if I mess up. The next day, I’m picking apart every little thing. The LITTLEST thing could bug me for weeks.
It fucking SUCKSSSSSS. (extra S’s to emphasize how much it sucks)
I’m not even gonna get into talking about wanting to look perfect. Physical appearance for me has gone out the window since quarantine hit. Facts. This is the type of perfectionism of wanting to get that satisfying validation of acceptance and refusing failure, above all.
Look, before you say to me one of the following, just know that I know and I hear you:
I know perfect doesn’t exist, just like how I know that striving to be perfect is unrealistic. You think I don’t know that? It’s something I consistently tell myself. It’s all about mindset (another thing everyone repeats!). It’s on me (and you, too, if you’re nodding this while reading) to change that. But (sorry, another cliche line coming at you), “Rome wasn’t built in the day.”
I never want to look like the failure, but at the same time, I don’t want my failures to taunt me for the rest of my life as much as it does now. I wish I was the type of person who brushed off a failure as a life lesson and moved on. I really do. I envy anyone who can do just that. But you guys, let me give you a peek into my brain real quick:
*sometime at 2:52am when I’m trying to sleep*
My mind: [replaying a recent meeting] “Why didn’t I speak up? I had the same idea as that person? What makes me so scared? Now they think you have nothing to offer.”
*sometime at 3:53pm when I’m trying to work*
My brain: “You messed up in that last slack message, and everyone saw. How embarrassing that you had to resend. Everyone thinks you’re an idiot.”
*sometime at 3:53pm when I’m trying to work*
My brain: “You could have done that speech so much better.” (A speech that I did like two years ago)
This happens very often. Honestly, I’m defeated by it. Because it’s so frustrating that I let myself live this way when I take a step back to look at it. It’s this non-physical obstacle I see right in front of me that I allow to eat me alive. On some days, that obstacle disappears, and I’m thinking, “Wow, I’m doing great.” On other days, the hurdles say, “Ha, bitch you thought!” and proceed to hit me the entire day.
This is probably why Simple Plan wrote the song “Perfect.” It makes sense. My sixth grade angsty self had no idea why the hell they wanted to be so damn perfect, but as an adult, holy shit. Wake up call!!!!
This is a different playing field. I’m non-stop following mental health/wellness Instagram accounts who all say the same thing, “Be easy on yourself. Be gentle. Don’t be too hard on yourself.” Well, that’s a bit hard to do when you’re someone who is consistently hard on themselves.
I’m not saying I’m not trying, but I’m also not saying that it’s easy. Easier said than done, right? Isn’t that how it always is? I’m going to need people to simmer down on deadlines and demand wants when the whole world is a dumpster fire right now. As of now, my mindset is 80/20 when committing to projects and anything beyond that? I’m in disbelief. I’m in an internal conflict with myself. How am I supposed to do so well, all while the world is falling apart? How is anyone supposed to do it?
First off, like a regular human being. Secondly, just speaking on my behalf, treat people with kindness. If something is off, if something is wrong, please do not come at me with condescending tones. The fact of the matter is, some people might not even know they’re condescending, and that’s half the battle!
Bare with me. Sometimes, I don’t even notice I’m trying to be a perfectionist. It’s an innate behavior that takes me a second to realize. It’ll hit me; eventually, I’ll internalize it, then I’ll talk it out when I’m ready. But please do know, as you’re talking to me, I may be thinking back at a problem I did yesterday. It’s not you, it’s me. This will get me jumbled up and off track, but I’ll find my way back eventually.
So, no. I don’t have a solution of some sort. I know this takes some bit of professional help, some talking through, and some years of rephrasing le mind, but thanks for letting me share this tidbit with you. TL;DR – I don’t have my shit together, and I know I’ll never be truly perfect. But that doesn’t mean I’m trying to work it out! *Cue High School Musical 2 soundtrack*
This has been strong on my mind, among other things. This is actually just a ramble of how I’ve been feeling lately. So thanks, friends + strangers.