The Positives & Perils of Perfectionism

If I could go back in time and offer some benefit of hindsight to my younger, tightly-wound self, it would be this: ease up on the perfectionism.

While being  a perfectionist is great for a writer, since it pushes you to do better and to fine-tune your output, it can have tremendous disadvantages if left uncontrolled.

First, the positives of perfectionism:

1. You get the satisfaction of, as well as the accolades for, a job done really well.

2. In many fields, perfectionism leads to higher standards of safety.

3. Your work has a higher chance of staying timeless, for all love and time you’ve put into it.

Now, the downside of perfectionism:

Missing the forest for the trees

1. Missing the forest for the trees: Those of us who really believe that ‘God is in the details’ are in a greater danger of missing the bigger picture. This can affect your writing life, and your personal life too.

For example, you may already have an impressive body of work. But in your quest for perfection, you devalue what you’ve already achieved, wait for that elusive perfect work, and fail to apply for an interesting opportunity.

Or, imagine missing that sudden sweet smile or the look of yearning on your child’s face because you’re too busy stressing over a minor detail, or missing the birthday or anniversary of your loved ones. While a couple of missed occasions will be ignored by many people, a chronic pursuit of perfectionism while ignoring the really important things can alienate even the ones closest to you.

2. Needlessly increasing avoidable stress: A missed opportunity, a burnt meal, a few clothes strewn over the bed etc. can really push our buttons on some days. But recognizing that these things are relatively minor in the larger scheme of things and not fussing over them for hours can prevent completely avoidable stress. Like they say, don’t sweat the small stuff.

3. Inability to enjoy life: Yes, life is messy. Accepting that one fact can help you overcome your frustration at things not going your exact, planned way.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s the introverts (like me) that are more prone to perfectionism…more prone to fine-tuning things till they almost reach OCD territory. After all, extroverts have better things to do — like dumping work on the only-too-happy-to-work introvert to meet up with friends and party 😉

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