The new trend in the wellness industry right now seems to be articles and podcasts and IG posts all about perfectionist tendencies and how they’re holding us back. And I think that might be true for, say, 15% of people. The other 85% of us? Probably not the case, but it’s a pretty great scapegoat, right?
I was nodding along with a podcast on this topic while I was riding this week, thinking “Wow, that totally applies to me” when I had a bit of an epiphany. It didn’t apply to me, actually, but it was a nice way to think about myself.
It’s like when you’re at a job interview and they ask for your negative qualities and you say, “Well, I guess I’d have to say that I’m too punctual. I just can’t help but be early for everything!”
Even if it is true, it’s probably not actually your worst quality, right? That’s just what you say because saying “I’m a huge slob with a rotting bowl of food hidden somewhere in my apartment that I haven’t bothered hunting down.” (Not an example taken from my life, but you get the idea.) I’m just a little tired of hiding behind perfectionism as an easy excuse for why we don’t get things done.
The reason my book proposal is 95% done but not 100% finished? I was watching Will & Grace reruns after dinner. That’s totally OK—albeit a little lazy, why am I *not* working burning the midnight oil as a writer?!—but if you’d asked me a month ago why I didn’t have it finished, I likely would have said something along the perfectionist lines, you know, “I want it to be exactly right so I’m slowly getting there.”
We see this a lot with coaching too: Peter is CONSTANTLY saying to clients/me/on the podcast that 80% is a passing grade, but so many people won’t finish intervals or power tests because something about their performance or their setup (damn you, Zwift!) isn’t perfect. I’m realizing that for most of us, something not being perfect is a great excuse to be lazy. That, by the way, is NOT the same thing as being a perfectionist, that’s using perfection as a word to hide behind.
I totally believe some people get trapped in a perfectionist spiral of working a billion hours a week on a project that never gets finished because it needs to be ‘perfect.’ But I don’t think that applies to most of us.
The other act of lazy versus true perfectionism is buying it. From an article on Vox (that I highly recommend reading because it’s wicked interesting): “Jessica Pryor is a psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University who studies perfectionism in young people. ‘Right now in the US we have a powerful recurring social message that not only is perfectionism — the perfect item, the perfect life — possible, but that it’s a thing that you should be able to go out and achieve,’ she explained over a recent phone call. ‘It’s an absolute myth that leaves a lot of people really, really unhappy.'”
OK, so buying things = creating the perfect life. That’s easy, with one-click shopping. Sure. But like avoiding getting something — a workout or a book proposal — done because it has to be perfect, buying things “to make life perfect” is another easy way to blame perfectionism for a bad habit.
I’m just getting really tired of throwing perfectionism under the bus. Maybe it’s time for a lot of us to get a lot more honest with ourselves and realize that it’s not a ‘fear of putting something out there that isn’t perfect’ that’s stopping us from doing/creating. Maybe we’re just being a teensy bit lazy. I know I am.
What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments!