I’m a perfectionist, but not in the traditional sense. I’m not a fan of details. My accessories don’t always match (or my socks). I would rather complete a project and get it out the door than fall asleep at my desk reviewing it one more time. Yet when it comes to doing something important to me, I insist I know the best way it should be done.
Perfectionists aren’t just people preoccupied with details, order and efficiency. If you feel a job must be done your way—the right way—then you are a performance perfectionist.
Besides causing you an enormous amount of stress, your perfectionist frame makes you an annoying colleague and partner. People find it hard working and playing with someone who always knows what’s best. You don’t mean harm, but you appear insensitive.
Your paradigm of perfection is held together by three assumptions which you need to acknowledge and change. This may be difficult because these assumptions have helped you to be amazing. Your greatest strengths overshadow your life’s weaknesses.
Assumption #1: There is a right answer and it is mine
If you are the best and the one who knows, then you have an answer for every question about things that are important to you. No one dares to disagree. Always being right not only hurts your relationships, it is a heavy responsibility to bear.
Assumption #2: Everything is up to me
This assumption implies that things will spin out of control or fail if they aren’t done by you. As a result, you will overwork, take on too many projects, and resist sharing your work with anyone else.
Assumption #3: I will always be disappointed
I hired a coach to help me figure out why I was having trouble maintaining long-term romantic relationships. She asked me, “When will you give up your attachment to being disappointed by your relationships?” Her question took my breath away.
Not long after I started a relationship, I began finding fault with my partner. The truth is—I expected to be disappointed before I ever gave the guy a chance.
Being chronically disappointed with work is the same story. When you are attached to being disappointed with your job or your boss, you don’t ever have to make a commitment to staying. You will give everything you have to your job up front, demonstrating that you should be treasured. Then you will feel let down the moment you aren’t recognized for your work or you aren’t given the best assignment. No matter how excited you were when you took the job, it’s always a matter of time before you have to move on.
To justify your behavior, you create standards that are difficult for anyone to meet. Things and people rarely measure up.
If you don’t release your attachment to disappointment, you will always focus on what is going wrong instead of what is good about anything you do.
The Shift: There is more than one right answer
The key to shifting out of always being right is to consciously choose to learn when you think you already know the answer. You have to deliberately commit to accepting that there is more than one right way to achieve a goal and there is more than one right answer to a question. “There is more than one” must become your mantra.
When your critical mind jumps in, release your breath before opening your mouth. This pausing technique gives you a moment to better assess the situation.
Maybe the person you disagree with is right from their perspective, which differs from yours. Maybe they have a solution that will work as well as yours or better if you can admit it. Maybe your relationship is more important than the perfect result, so the true solution is to 1) see if you can use their ideas or 2) keep your mouth shut.
When you release the tension in your body before you speak, you free your mind to see there is more than one way you can respond.
You can’t get an A in personal growth
Committing to growth is itself a lesson in humility, patience and imperfection. Changing your assumptions takes more time than you want to give. The good news is that the quicker you admit to your assumptions and quiet your critical mind, the quicker the new you will emerge.
You’ll find more detailed explanation and tips for growth in the book, Wander Woman: How High Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction. Launch date is June 15th!