At first glance, there seems to be nothing wrong with “perfect.” In fact, for many of us, it’s our daily goal: the perfectly-worded email sent at the perfect time; the perfectly-polished slide deck for your perfect pitch; the perfectly-written speech delivered with perfect cadence. While it’s never a bad thing to ensure all our “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” crossed, our blind devotion to perfectionism may need some perfecting of its own.
There are as many definitions of “perfection” as there are jobs, tasks, and people who complete them. Women like Serena Williams, Martha Stewart, and Beyoncé have channeled their admitted perfectionism into reaching the top of their respective fields. If you told these women (or yourself) to just “let perfectionism go,” you’d be invalidating the drive that fueled them. And unless you’ve been burned by perfectionism in the past, you’re unlikely to even entertain the idea of imperfection.
A different school of thought might be the key to finding the happy medium between the two. Julian Reeve writes, “The idea that perfectionism can be ‘honed’ or ‘refined’ may inspire perfectionists to practice managing their traits in healthier, more productive ways, with positive messaging, with phrases like ‘maximizing the potential’ or, yes, even ‘perfecting’ your perfectionism.” She goes on to explain that this reframe could open the door to those of us unwilling to give up our perfectionism and inspire a younger generation of professional women to place more of a value on balancing it.
Why you should consider perfecting your perfectionism:
- No one is perfect all the time. Literally no one. Even Beyoncé.
- It keeps us from trying new things that we might be good at – or bad!
- Working so hard to avoid small failures prevents us from learning how to deal with inevitable larger failures.
- Perfectionism fuels unhealthy anxiety and gives ammunition to our inner critic.
How to do it:
- Start with determining which tasks deserve perfectionism and identify the ones that can simply be done well, or even just “done.”
- Surround yourself with people who help you reach your goals and encourage self care, especially when you have unmet expectations.
- Try something you’re pretty sure you’ll stink at doing. If you eventually do it well, congratulate yourself on the journey to get there. If you still stink, be proud that you tried!
When you think about refining your perfectionism, think less Beyoncé and more Adele. In the middle of a tribute to George Michael at the 2017 Grammys, Adele stopped and asked to start over. She could have continued, but she allowed us to see the process of her perfectionism. Mistakes make us relatable, but how you recover from them can be, well, perfect.