Perfectionism is a funny thing. On the one hand, it can push me to work harder and longer and better.
On the other hand, it can be a crippling force that stops me from even trying. The fear of failing is enough to keep me considering and researching and planning long after its necessary.
Since I left the discipline of high school drill team with its dancing for 5 hours most days, I have neglected exercise. There are some good reasons for this–adjusting to life in college, adjusting to first job schedule, adjusting to life as a parent, etc. But mostly, there have been excuses. See, I was a good dancer. But I am not a good runner and group exercise classes are just torture chamber with mirrors. So, I didn’t ever find exercise that I could love. Why? Because I wanted to be great at it before I ever started. I didn’t want to embrace the vulnerability of being a learner when others were watching. I won’t even work out at home because I get nervous about my kids watching me! (yes, I recognize that this is ridiculous, but it is also truthful.)
I am a bit obsessive about Christmas decorating. I LOVE IT! In our home, I take down almost every picture, knickknacks, and pillow in late November to replace them with Christmas themed ones. I switch to Christmas dishes, glasses, and mugs. I put away dish towels, place mats, and pot holders to make room for red and green ones. This task involves more than 20 storage boxes full of stuff.
Since going back to work full-time two and half years ago, I have felt a growing frustration about Christmas decorating which puzzled me. I really do love it. So why was it stressing me out? The answer is embarrassing; because I didn’t have an entire 18 hours in a row to get it all done anymore. I had to space it out over several days. That meant that the house was littered with boxes and newspaper and the garage was full of boxes. I couldn’t do it perfectly (in one very long day) so I didn’t want to do it.
Perfectionism is paralyzing for me.
In October, I committed to finishing the couch to 5k training program. I did it to embrace the reality that I am a learner, a beginner. I did it to take one huge push against perfectionism and I have never done anything so hard! This year, I took an entire week to get the Christmas decorating done. As I confessed in an earlier post, there was still some perfectionism driving me. But I’m learning. I’m trying.
If perfectionism paralyzes you, what is one small step you can take today toward being a beginner, a learner?