“If you’re going to make something, use the best materials, put some real time and effort into it, and get it right.”
“If you’re going to put away your clothes, take the time to fold everything properly so that there are no wrinkles.”
“If you’re going to clean the pots, then take a steel wool and scrub the stains off the bottom while you’re at it.”
“If you’re going to do something, do your best at it.”
If, then; if, then; if, then….. Whether these commands come from someone else or just keep swirling in your head while you look at a project, any project, EVERY project that needs to be done, these words can be nothing short of paralyzing for a perfectionist.
“Oh,” you chuckle, looking over your shoulder the mound of laundry that hasn’t been folded and put away for a week, or the windows that are bare because you can’t seem to decide what kind of curtains you want to hang, or your out of date jeans that you really hate but don’t want to replace until you lose some weight first. “Yeah, I’m not a perfectionist. Perfectionists are… perfect! You can tell just by looking at me that I’m not—I’m a mess!”
Well, my friend, it is possible that you just may be a perfectionist. It took me years to realize it, and then a few more to admit it, but I’m willing to say it now:
I am a perfectionist.
I’m a perfectionist of the worst sort, because rather than seeing something that needs to be done and give it a good shot, I see something I feel I can’t do perfectly, so I say, “Why bother?”
That pile of laundry? It’s filled with shirts that really should be ironed, and I don’t have the time to iron, so on the couch they’ll stay.
The windows? Well, it’s tough, because I can’t decide if I prefer a warm look or a cool look, and well, I like florals, but I haven’t found one yet that doesn’t look so….. flowery….
Oh, and the jeans? Honestly, I don’t want to spend the money on clothes that I’ll only be wearing for a few weeks anyway because I’ve been meaning to start running, once I finish researching the best running shoes, and besides, should I be doing Weight Watchers, or just do Paleo on my own?
It’s enough to make me want to pull my own hair out when I think of it!
Yes, there are many things in this life that require us to give 100%. The problem is that sometimes you get mired in the idea that everything requires all or nothing. And if you can’t give it your all, you’re likely to give nothing.
Take for instance: vacuuming. At some point, early in my marriage, I heard that in order for a carpet to be truly cleaned, you have to pass over each spot eight times. That’s right, push, pull, push, pull, push, pull, push, pull—okay, that spot is clean, move over 10 inches and, repeat.
Guess how often I vacuumed? Yep. Close to never. Who vacuums like that!?
This was the point when The Hubs said something to me. Something wise beyond his years, summing up the cure for my ineffectual perfectionist living:
“Sometimes, honey, half-assed is better than no-assed.”
Just think of it: if I had but run the vacuum over the carpet every once in a while, I would have had a much cleaner townhouse, and probably a better feeling about myself.
I think that might be the worst result of having a perfectionist attitude: If I can’t do it perfectly, then I shouldn’t bother. Because I can’t do something perfectly, then I’m a failure.
Wow. Sounds pretty heavy. And while those words aren’t necessarily dancing in front of me on a regular basis, their evil twin keeps whispering from the background, a quiet drumbeat:
Don’t bother. Don’t bother. Don’t bother. Don’t bother…..
What do you accomplish then? Nothing.
And when you’re not accomplishing much, it pulls you down.
Well, guess what? It doesn’t have to be so cut and dry. Sometimes, things don’t have to be done perfectly. Sometimes, things just need to be done. As I’ve been told several times by several different people, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Sometimes, good is good enough.
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to take a closer look at some of the places in my life where I’ve allowed perfectionism to take root and crowd out all the good I could have been accomplishing, if only I had not given into the temptation of perfectionism.
I’d love to hear your stories, too, of where you’ve overcome any perfectionist tendencies. Are there any places where you can see that you are going for the perfect, and letting it crowd out the good?