Perfectionism is deadly.
It can slowly kill you and your dreams.
In one study, researchers interviewed friends and family members of people who had recently killed themselves. Without prompting, more than half of the deceased were described as “perfectionists” by their loved ones.*
Are you an undercover perfectionist?
You may be in denial.
I was. I thought I wasn't a perfectionist because I'm not a neat freak and am generally laid back.
But my son busted me on his 4th birthday.
All he wanted was a skateboard.
I felt like the world's greatest mom when he unwrapped his gift.
Five minutes later he was crying and banging his board.
His new skateboard wasn't cooperating.
He had visions of flying down our front stairs doing tricks like the big kids in the park. Instead he could barely scoot 2 inches without losing his balance.
I tried to tell him to be patient, take it one step at a time and just focus on learning how to coast.
He stomped away angrily.
And I realized I needed to start taking my own advice.
Earlier that week my son had probably seen me cursing my computer. I was wrangling my first Wordpress site and was upset that I couldn't make it look more professional.
Before I knew it, I was on the verge of tears, thinking about my tiny mailing list and how foolish I was to think I could build a business that could replace my full-time paycheck.
Basically I had an adult tantrum because I couldn't do neat tricks I saw all my favorite online businesswomen doing.
Do you do this?
Perfectionists are people who strive to be excellent in all that they do - which is great. But perfectionists go left when they (and by they, I mean we) set unrealistic goals. We become so afraid of failing, we beat ourselves up for every little mistake we make.
Perfectionism is one of the main causes of procrastination.
Here are some signs that you may be an undercover perfectionist.
Whenever you make a mistake or take longer than you expect to learn something new, you get really upset. Secretly you see it as an indication that you're not good enough.
You have a hard time distinguishing between advice and criticism. It feels like someone is peeling a layer of your skin off when they offer any sort of feedback.
You've got a project you've been thinking about and research for YEARS. You pretend that you're doing research or need more training or degrees to prepare to act on your idea but really you're just afraid of failing.
You're a chronic procrastinator. You miss deadlines and opportunities because you put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect, it's hard to get started.
When you tell people about your goals, they say: "You want to do ALL that in one week?" and look at you like this:
Okay, I'm an undercover perfectionist! Now what?
First off, dust off your shoulders right now for recognizing that. Denial is the hugest hurdle to get over. Awareness is the first key to changing any habit. And right now your perfectionist ways are just a bad habit you need to kick.
The next step is being nice to yourself the next time you notice that you're being an undercover perfectionist.
There's a lot of scientific proof that self-compassion is more effective than "tough love" to get rid of bad habits. So try talking to yourself the way you would to your best friend or your young child (cough! cough!) the next time you start going down the "I'm not good enough" spiral.
And then once you've practiced these first two steps a few times, you can graduate to using your mistakes to teach you how to set more realistic goals.
I know...it's much harder than it sounds which is why you have to take it one baby step at a time. And be nice to yourself while you're learning this new way of responding to your failures and mistakes.
If you want some support with learning how to cure your undercover perfectionism, check out my new coaching program. One of the things you'll learn is how to make realistic to-do lists that won't overwhelm you.
P.S. And please add any other signs of undercover perfectionism that I missed in the comments below. Thank you:)