I find myself getting annoyed by colleagues, friends, family who say this: “Oh, you know, I’m just such a perfectionist”. It seems that so many people wear this sentence like a badge of honor. I personally find it itchy, yet even for me it is a pitfall. And here’s why.
When people say that to me, I can’t help but feel a bit put down. It feels to me like they are saying that their work, whatever that be, is perfect and impeccable and that my efforts are just but a dim shadow of their effort. Which of course is ludicrous as a perfect state of anything is just non existent. But there it is – someone says it and I immediately feel like a second range citizen. While this marks my flaw in being so impressed by what others say and do and having them affect my personal emotions, I can’t help but feel this is sometimes said with the very intention of making me feel that way because we all know that sometimes putting someone else down can make us feel superior – albeit for a very short time because we know it’s not authentic.
What I have also learned is that perfectionism is not used as a personality trait in most cases, but actually as a shield. Because when you say that you are such a perfectionist, you actually close the door towards constructive (and nonconstructive, which would be great to avoid) feedback on your work. Because if you are a perfectionist, and won’t put anything out there that isn’t perfect – who has the audacity to state otherwise? I certainly don’t. And even if I would dare to make a comment, I know that you are not open to it because you have only produced something that you think is perfect. That hardly screams for feedback of any kind. It’s a lose-lose situation really. I feel like crap, and you won’t ever get to grow.
Another thing I learned about this seemingly innocent statement is that it is actually the ultimate statement of fear. What you’re actually saying is: “Listen, I’m really unsure about what I’m putting out there, and so I’m either going to choose not to put it out there because I’m afraid I won’t be able to match mine and your expectations, and when I have no choice but to put something out I would rather not have anyone comment on it because it will only confirm what I already think – my work, and therefore I, am not good enough.”
I think we should stop the madness. Let’s all accept that we will never, ever put something out there that is perfect. Because my perspective of perfect will differ from yours. So let me repeat that: WE WILL NEVER, EVER, EVER PUT SOMETHING OUT THERE THAT IS GOING TO BE PERFECT TO EVERYONE. Instead, let’s accept that it is scary to show our work and ourselves, and be kind and constructive to each other so that we can help each grow. Perfectionism doesn’t match that state of mind, and we should avoid it and stop hiding behind it. Own yourself, own your work and rather create something that will be imperfect than risk having missed your shot at life due to fear.