There's certainly enough evidence out there, that constantly striving for perfection is bad for you - bad for your mental health, bad for your professional performance. How often did you find yourself spending way too much time on a task, because wait - just a little more polishing here or there - and then it will finally be perfect? Yet don't they say, done is better than perfect? An economist at heart, I can't help thinking of Pareto principle or marginal product of labor theories, when thinking about the amount of time I spend on things I should be able to accomplish, well, way faster - and let go of not being absolutely 100% satisfied and proud of the output.
Easier said than done. My life, professionally and personally, feels like little but a bunch of under-achievements. Do more. Better. Faster. Nothing I do is just as perfect as I want it to be. Perfectionism is why I procrastinate - because it is easier to leave a task on a to-do list than delivering something imperfect. Perfectionism is why I quickly feel overwhelmed when too many things simultaneously require my attention and time - when I can't do all at once, better do none than chose. Perfectionism is why it took me years to publish my first ever blog post - and many months to publish this second one. Perfectionism is also why I have let go of too many friendships throughout time - because it is easier to let people think what they'll think, than to try to live up to the expectations one has of a perfect friend.
This is of course flawed logic - or critical lack thereof. And there's more. Perfectionism comes hand in hand - in my case and I would imagine in the case of many - with a serious fear of disappointing others. The mere thought of disappointing someone makes me feel guilty and so sorry already - so much that I even feel sorry in anticipation of possibly ever disappointing. Tell me, how twisted is that?
In the past months, I've started a fantastic new job, with higher responsibilities, and filled my life with always more side projects, friends, plans and promises - always confident I could handle all of this just perfectly. Until I got overwhelmed by how guilty and sorry I felt for "so poorly delivering on anything at all". Yes, this is a subjective, technically incorrect statement - yet truly how I felt deep inside.
When talking with friends struggling with impostor syndrome, I like to use a metaphor: a simple glass of water. How filled the glass is, is how much you objectively achieve and perform - out of a full glass, that represents your own expectations for yourself. The "empty" part of the glass, is where one feels guilt and disappointment in themselves. Except for a fact: only you can see the glass. Others only see the water - all what you do, say, achieve already. What it means: learn how to focus on the water that's in the glass, see your achievements for what they are. And also, try to keep your glass of a decent size - don't think you can fill a bathtub too quickly.
So lately, I'm trying to apply these rules to myself. If I can't do everything I would like to do or not quite as perfectly as I wished, so be it. Stressing out and feeling sorry anyways won't make things any better - so, might as well not.
See, as I write these words, my inbox and to-do-list are exploding. But I started this post today August 9th as I got home, and figured I'd make it a challenge to practice not-being-sorry and letting go of perfectionism by publishing this straight away, without overthinking it. You know, practice makes.. wait, I take that back.
Also, I realise this post touched on a couple extremely personal topics. But if there is another thing I strongly believe in and advocate for, it is the power of being authentic. Hopefully, I won't wait another few months before I manage to share some more thoughts on that topic.