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Just Perfect: 5 Signs You Might Be A Chronic Perfectionist

Just Perfect: 5 Signs You Might Be A Chronic Perfectionist

Perfectionism is a new kind of disease that is afflicting millions of people–you always have to get things right, take control and take on the lion’s share of work so that you can feel that you’re controlling the path of your own destiny, bending the universe to your very will.

This, which you know, is impossible. Believe me, I’ve tried.

I’m a recovering perfectionist, having been a high achiever in high school and college. The fact that my life isn’t exactly going the way I wanted has proven to be a bit of a balm and has helped loosen up (some of) my obsessive, controlling ways.
If you think you might be suffering from some chronic perfectionism, have a look at these symptoms and see if you might need to step back from worshiping at the pedestal of perfection.

1. You always have to be in control.

The first sign of perfectionism is the need to always be in control. If you’re working on a school or college project, you’re always the one who takes charge, dictates the pace and delegates tasks to everyone else.

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The only problem is that even delegating can leave you antsy and worried that things just aren’t being completed to your personal standards. When group members bring in their work, you rework it and edit it a bit (or a lot) and then make sure that it all makes sense to you. You take on the lion’s share of work just to make sure you always stay in control of the project.

It’s not that you don’t trust other people–it’s just that you trust yourself more, and you know deep down that you’ll be able to get it all done and sorted perfectly.

2. Nothing is ever good enough.

Another sign of true perfectionism is that nothing ever seems to be good enough. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s something serious or something trivial; nothing can ever seem to be just ‘done’ enough.

If you’ve written something, you’ll always want to tweak a word or a phrase or change the font until it becomes perfect (at which point you’ve run over deadline). If you’ve drawn something, you’ll keep adding or changing details about it, until the picture no longer resembles what you intended.

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The idea of nothing ever being good enough comes from a deep anxiety of missing out on something that will somehow stop it from being the best representation of yourself–that one word that could have made your essay, or the little detail that would have made your drawing outshine the others.

3. You have to do everything yourself.

This has already been mentioned in an above point but it really is worth noting–being a perfectionist means that you generally have to do everything yourself.

It doesn’t always have to be literally doing everything by yourself–you’re not superhuman after all–but you can be damn sure that you’ll be mentally supervising and creating a checklist of stuff to check up on and correct the second you have a bit of free time.

The art of puttering becomes a corrective institution–tucking things away a little neater so that they’re just so, adjusting something when someone leaves the room so that they don’t feel offended that you changed what they did right in front of them, or even doing the smallest of small adjustments that only you will notice.

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4. You can’t let go of the little things.

The little things bug the hell out of you–and we’re not talking about things like a relative mispronouncing a word, or not getting the last muffin in the lunch line.

We’re talking things like finding yourself baking and the recipe goes slightly wrong. It’s not wrong enough to affect it much, but immediately you’re deflated and considering half a dozen ways to either correct the situation at once, or to trash it all and start again. After all, if it isn’t absolutely perfect, what’s the point? A missing crayon, a lost sock or a cracked plate later, and you’re tearing your hair out and considering a mid-afternoon drink.

Not being able to let go of the little things can haunt your every waking moment and can even cause some pretty random flashbacks to times in the past when you messed up or didn’t do as well as you could. That time you split your jeans at school or got a B instead of your usual A? Yep, that’ll haunt you.

5. The idea of ‘getting things perfect’ is driving you insane.

Finally, the key symptom of being a perfectionist is when you need to get things right the first time and every attempt after drives you absolutely up the wall. It’s exhausting and unfair, and you wish you could turn it off, but you can’t.

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This absolutely impossible need to be the perfect person all the time is–while kind of admirable–also hugely detrimental to your overall health.

To-do lists, pie charts, self-help and self-improvement books and the glossy sheen of the media are like drug fixes to any hugely-invested perfectionist. We crave the idea of one day attaining this perfect, permanent state of competence and unhurried serenity, which is a lovely thought, but one that is about as pragmatic as a teapot made from chocolate.

As someone who once saw the Stepford Wives as role models for their perfect lives, I can all but admit that being a perfectionist sucks. It is time-draining and actually burns up more time, energy and effort than just letting go and letting some things just fall where they may. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of being in control, but there comes a point where the strong grip of control becomes a noose of constraint.

I’m working on easing off on my perfectionist ways, and while they’ll have to grasp my to-do list out of my cold, dead hands, I’m starting to let things go and loosen up a little bit. After all, life isn’t perfect, but everyone else seems to be doing okay. And, right now at least, that’s good enough for me.

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Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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