Atelophobia (N): the fear of imperfection, not being enough.
Many of you are aware of my struggle with perfectionism. It really is a type of self-abuse of the highest order, and it’s something that can drive you up the wall if you allow it to.
Relationships, love, work, home life, aspirations, even inconsequential things like evenly applied foundation and the perfect glossy pout…the word ‘perfection’ will often rear its ugly head with me.
I don’t know if I’ve always been this way. I’m pretty sure if you asked my parents they’d be quick to say ‘No’ – all you would have to do is compare the state of my living space from my teenage and university years to know. Once you would’ve had to wade through a sea of clothes, accessories and other crap on the floor throughout my home and now, I can’t even stand to see a piece of fluff from my dog’s decapitated stuffed toy laying on the floor – what the hell happened?
While I’ve managed to lessen the pressures of the road to perfection, there are still some types of perfectionism that I find myself fighting – the perfection of getting my words right is one of them, as is my creative perfectionism.
I find myself reading back over old previously sent text messages, obsessing over what should’ve and shouldn’t have been said and don’t even get me started on those God awful (and sometimes embarrassing) errors thanks to predictive texting. I fixate on every single minute detail…and I constantly question myself as to how I could have said it better.
I’m also that cliché interviewee. ‘What’s your weakness?’ ‘I’m a perfectionist!’ The roll of the eyes from the interviewing panel is blatantly obvious. You can tell that they’re thinking, ‘Oh God, not another one!’ And even though this might be true, I need to find some other less cliché interview answers next time.
Over the last day or so, I’ve debated as to whether or not I should actually publish this blog, because while I’ve managed to control some things, I still don’t know how to really overcome perfectionism, and of course that perfectionist within me would really like to have the answer to it – go figure!
I know very well that there’s no such thing as perfection (I even had this very conversation the other day with someone) yet I still find myself idealising everything…talk about a head spinner!
I know many other people who’re just like me…they seek answers, explanations, and want every aspect of their lives to be just so…
I think women struggle with the notion of ‘perfection’ more openly than men, however, this doesn’t mean that men don’t feel such pressures as well.
In saying this, there are a few quotes from some well-known public female figures that help push me through those metaphorical barriers of perfectionism. I’m really trying my damnedest to step back from this fastidiousness and focus more on progress in both my private and professional life; maybe this way I’ll stop finding excuses and trivial flaws in things; maybe this is one of the keys to getting what and who I really desire.
Perfectionism hampers success – Brene Brown
Oh, the irony of it all. I try to instil and shape good virtues in my students yet I still refuse to see it for myself. “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life…”
Perfection does hamper so many things, but most of all it hampers success whether that’s at work or in love (or in my case, both). Not only this, it can lead to a life paralysis; it causes stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction – the conception of perfectionism is powerful, but at the same time it’s also potentially toxic.
The thing is, I know exactly what and who I want right now. People may make assumptions about me, stating I don’t actually want such things or that I’m not ‘ready’ or some other flippant bullshit comment, but it’s not insecurity and it certainly has nothing to do with not being ‘ready’, what’s stopping me is that I just want everything to be perfect, you know that silly happily-ever-after that little girls dream of…
The show must go on – Tina Fey
I’m pretty sure Tina Fey didn’t coin the phrase ‘The show must go on’, however, she put it well when she said ‘The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11.30, and that’s what time it has to air’. Speaking about Saturday Night Live, Fey uses it as a reminder not to be too precious about her writing – perhaps I too should take note!
This is not an excuse to stop trying, no not at all! In fact, you’ve got to really get out there, try your hardest to be at the top of your game to improve and to get better, and when the time runs out, deadlines near and people begin to give up waiting on you, you need to just let go, follow the heart and I guess have faith that it’s all going to turn out for the best.
So, what’s the moral of the story?
It’s never going to be perfect, but then again the idea of ‘perfect’ is overrated anyway, right?
Aim for good enough – Hillary Clinton
This is one quote on perfection that I struggle with a lot. How can I seriously aim for just ‘good enough’? Surely that goes against everything I’ve been trying to instil in my students.
Clinton once referred to the ‘perfectionist gene’, the gene that she feels holds too many people back, especially young women – could this be the scientific answer I’ve been looking for that elucidates me? Should I really be just aiming for that ‘good enough’?
Clinton states that men and perfection are different. Men tend to just seize it – I’m not sure if I completely agree, but I’m going to try and let go regardless (as uncomfortable as it may all be) and just do it!
I might sound a tad neurotic, and I can assure you that I’m not some psycho bitch. I guess a great deal of my perfectionism is down to the fact that I’m a passionate person in many respects, especially when it comes to improving myself and giving my best to absolutely all that I do and those that I do it for.
To many, perfectionism, on the surface seems ‘perfect’. Yeah, I might have an acute eye for detail, yeah, I might push myself hard in a bid to achieve the ‘perfect’ image, and yeah I might also go all out and try and achieve that goal no one else has ever achieved, but there’s a downside, a downside that sometimes I just don’t feel ‘perfect’ enough, for example when I held back from someone because I felt I just wasn’t good enough for their perfection…it’s an oxymoronic type of craziness – it just doesn’t make sense.
That’s not all, my perfectionism has led to procrastination. This is really ironic I know! But it’s a very real and recurring issue for me. Because I want to succeed and do well in all areas of my life, I sometimes put goals and dreams on hold until I know I can give it 110% to ensure a precise outcome in the end. I also tend to obsess about things (usually really stupid shit), which also leads me to spending even more time trying to fine-tune the details. Take this blog for example, I’m sure I’m going to re-read it around 20 times and make numerous changes before I get round to actually posting it, or like many other pieces of writing and blogs I’ve done, it could also quickly get discarded into my archives never to be seen again!
I may also have a skewed view of reality. You see, I notice so many things. I’m ultra-sensitive to my surrounding stimuli, meaning I’m able to notice feelings, sounds, words, visual cues, and behaviour more than the average person. This might sound all well and good, spotting these details I mean, but the time I waste trying to tweak things over and over again is phenomenal.
I guess the first step in overcoming this is recognising it; and this is something I’ve done. The other day I managed to just utter “I’m a perfectionist” to someone, and they responded with a knowing smile. It’s like the step-programme for recovering addicts – the first step is acknowledgment.
And I do know that this obsessiveness with perfection can have debilitating effects, which is why I’m moving away from it all…
I know I’m not perfect. No one is. And like Marilyn Monroe said:
Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than boring!