Aug 302012

When I was in high school, I often declared myself a perfectionist. I was young and ignorant, not realizing that the perfectionism I was so proud of was limiting my creativity. Instead I wore it as a sign of my exacting high standards and goals for myself.

Then I had kids. Children will either convince one to give up perfectionism (for the most part) or perfectionism will make parenting a living h-e-double-hockey-sticks. Shortly after I had my second daughter and became outnumbered at home during the day, I discovered FlyLady. She was the first to help me realize how destructive my perfectionism was to my happiness and home and family life.

I started realizing that there is such a thing as “good enough.” I learned about a concept called “point of diminishing returns.” (See this Lifehacker article for good points made about when “good enough” is good enough and when striving for perfection is worth it.)

There is a great article on LIVESTRONG.COM titled “Overcoming Perfectionism.” There are many facets to perfectionism. Some of those on the list in the article applied to me. For example, for me, perfectionism was:

  • “a habit developed from youth that keeps you constantly alert to the imperfections, failings, and weakness in yourself and others”
  • “an inhibiting factor that keeps you from making a commitment to change habitual, unproductive behavior out of fear of not making the change ‘good enough'”

as well as

  • “a reason why you may be fearful of success, i.e., if I achieve my goal, will I be able to continue, maintain that level of achievement”

Proof I’m Still a Perfectionist

I was so excited when I was first building this blog. The ideas poured forth in waves I couldn’t write down fast enough. I thought of everything it could be: a place to express thoughts and invite discussion, a place to document my efforts at balancing the various important aspects of life while still reading and writing the words I love, a place to use those words to define myself and my life’s goals, and a place to find and encourage others like me so we can support each other.

I posted my first two, shiny new posts and then–I froze up. Paralyzed by all of the bigger better blogs around me and thoughts that my blog would never be “good enough” for readers of those blogs. Overwhelmed by all of the blogging Dos and Don’ts on professional blogging sites. Insecure with the realization that posting my reviews on LDS Women’s Book Review is very different than the more personal posts that would appear on this blog.

What if what I wrote wasn’t awful and people actually visited the blog and read my posts and what if I messed up? What if I said something wrong or sounded dumb/naive/stupid/ignorant/dumb?

I recently recognized those thoughts for what they really were–my perfectionism rearing its ugly head. I started to feel inspired again. I wanted to break free from that restrictive, doubt-filled paralysis of perfectionism I had succumbed to once more.

Moving Past Perfectionism

There is a list of suggestions for overcoming perfectionism in that article from LIVESTRONG.COM. Here are some that I found helpful:

  • “accept that the ideal is only a guideline or goal to be worked toward, not to be achieved 100 percent”
  • “recognize that one’s backsliding does not mean the end of the world; it is OK to pick oneself up and start all over again”
  • “learn to accept yourself the way you are; let go of the ideas of how you should be”
  • “have support people who role model forgiving and forgetting when mistakes, failures, offenses or backsliding occur”

Luckily my husband is a supportive guy. He suffers from his own version of perfectionism, so we can help each other out.

I’ve also received a lot of encouragement from good author friends, both published and not, who have helped me get back in the saddle of writing again. I have yet to hit 10,000 words in my first ever official work-in-progress, but thanks to them that goal feels more attainable than ever before.

Having a good support system might be the most important thing on that list. After listening to voices in my head all day (both mine and those of my characters) I become a little deaf internally. Sometimes, hearing those external voices encouraging me to “Keep writing! Don’t give up!” and “You can do this–you really can!” is just what I need to keep my fingertips moving on the keyboard.

Are you a perfectionist? If so, how do you deal with perfectionism? Who inspires you to keep working toward your goals?


  12 Responses to “PERFECTIONISM”

  1. Thanks for this post. I can relate so much to what you’re saying here. I have done the flylady system before and really believe in it. I’m the classic paralyzed perfectionist who never realized I was a perfectionist until flylady came along. These days, I don’t do much writing and it’s partly because my internal editor is a perfectionist and won’t shut up when I’m drafting. This post reminded me of some of the things I need to be doing.

    Good luck!

    • Jenn,

      I have the hardest time drafting without editing, too. I think it’s the reviewer in me. I’m constantly critiquing my own stuff, which means I am a slow drafter. Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of it! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Perfectionist? Kinda. Sorta. I accept a lot of approximation, and I don’t have a problem continuing to write. But I’m a little reluctant to put my writing out there–just in case it sucks.
    🙂 Congrats on your 10,000!

    • I highly doubt your writing sucks, Canda. But I understand where you’re coming from. Thanks! I appreciate the comment!

  3. Shanda, this is an awesome post. And congrats on recognizing this so you can do something about it. I have perfectionist tendencies myself. There are a couple of philsophies I love to use to remind myself of this. One is the Amish idea of not even striving for perfection. If they are working on a project that comes out too well, they will purposefully put a flaw in it because only God is perfect. Another is the idea of asking myself how many people have ever lived? Billions. How many have ever gotten off this planet being perfect? One. What are the odds that I will get off perfect? Billions to one.

    It can take a lot of pressure off. =D

    • I love the idea of purposefully including a flaw. And the odds of becoming perfect before I die equaling several billion to one removes a lot of pressure. That’s a perspective I hadn’t considered before. I’m so glad you came to visit my blog. Thank you for the eye-opening comment!

  4. Shanda,

    Great post–and great inspiration for one who hasn’t posted to her own blog in about a year and a half. Don’t worry too much that you are spending time editing. That is every bit as important as drafting, and all of it is progress.Keep going!

    • Michele! Hi! Thanks for the comment and for all of your encouragement these past several months. Without you asking after my writing I know I wouldn’t be as far as I am (even though it’s technically not very far, lol). PS – I look forward to the day when you are slightly less busy and can blog again. I always enjoyed your posts!

  5. Loved this post! I am a recovering perfectionist. Having 4 children in 7 years forced me to lose a lot of those unrealistic expectations I put on myself. I still struggle and strive to focus on what is most important and what will bring me the most joy. I think that’s the key–write because you love it, because it makes you feel happy. For me, that helps to lose some of those perfectionist inhibitions.
    And just sayin’ for someone who has read as many books as you–you’ve got some great building blocks for your writing because you’ve learned to recognize what works in writing.
    Look forward to seeing what you come up with!

    • Thank you, Rachelle! I love what you said about focusing on what will bring the most joy. I am learning to love writing and the joy it can bring, especially when I stop worrying about what everyone else will think and write what I love. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  6. Shanda,

    I was a perfectionist as a kid–mostly because Mom demanded it of me. It was pure survival for me, Still, some of those habits carried on into adulthood. Thankfully, kids have started to cure me of that. I’m still making peace with a less-than-surgically-clean house (the kind my mom forced us to keep when I was growing up), but change is coming. 🙂

    I loved this post. Eye opening, and well put. 🙂

    • I understand. My dad was the super clean one, and I’m sure the source of a lot of my perfectionist tendencies. Thanks for the comment, Stan!

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