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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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