The Perfect Perfectionist

That Perfect Perfectionist

Have you noticed that the word Perfect and the concept of Perfectionism are completely at odds? Hear me out, I have noticed that in the vernacular people are replacing the word “thank you” with the word perfect. A waiter delivers an ordered cup of coffee, “ahh perfect” replies the patron. You asked your coworker to grab you a file when delivered you respond “perfect”.

Maybe it is a fad, like “sweet” or “true that”. Maybe it is a regional thing and you, the reader, are filling in your own words that have been co-opted to mean something other than their original definition. It is one of the things I love about our culture, how original and ever-changing our language is, and one of the things that I struggle with as word’s have too often been used to marginalize, minimize and dismiss.

So what is perfect? Webster’s Dictionary, is that still the gold standard or has that changed as well? Anywho, Webster’s defines ‘Perfect” as;

a : being entirely without fault or defect : Flawless

  • a perfect diamond

b : satisfying all requirements : Accurate

c : corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept

  • a perfect gentleman

d : faithfully reproducing the original; specifically : Letter Perfect

e : legally valid

The problem with ‘perfect’, if I may be so bold, is that I have seen this desire, this striving for getting ‘it’ perfect turn into the personality trait of being a perfectionist, and further still, into the Conflict personality-style of a perfectionist/controller.

What’s so wrong with that?

Perfect is an ever moving goal line, an often unattainable one. One that if you are like most humans, is veiled by your own internal dialogue. It is just as hard to be a perfectionist, as it is to be impacted by one.

Perfectionists are hard on themselves, always striving to be better, to get it right, to have the systems or structures, or outlines whatever it is, in order to avoid any marginal or undesired outcomes. Along with that perfectionists often attempt to control others, the situation, or the environment. Sometimes they overstep boundaries by jumping in and taking over.

As my Gramma Tiny used to say. Your greatest weakness is your strength overplayed. Who doesn’t want a perfectionist in their mastermind group, or as their assistant? Lord knows I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my hair or my taxes but these are one-offs.

If you are a perfectionist this strength, when overplayed will become a weakness.

How do you know when this is happening?

Are you stressed out? Is it causing a conflict? Are you rescuing someone from a natural consequence? If so, you are overplaying this strength and it will end up negatively impacting you.

Okay, so what do you do about it?

Ask yourself these questions;

Am I on my side of the fence? If not, get back in your yard. The situation is not yours to control.

Am I rescuing someone? Robbing a person from natural consequences for their actions also robs them of the lessons and skills that they learn when solving it themselves.

Are you telling someone what they need to or should do? It’s okay to offer your advice, but ask if they would like it first (and keep natural consequences in mind).

Are you suffering? This suffering can show up as stress, anxiety, fear, it has many masks. If you are you are probably being too hard on yourself. Stop it! (think Bob Newhart Stop-It meme).

I want to leave you with this. We are all works in progress, we all have our “lessons” that we have to learn over and over again until we make a change. Give yourself a break and be sure to hold yourself in Grace, all of us are doing this for the first time.

Want more? Check out the podcast on Perfectionism on Difficult Happens 


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