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the dangerous downsides of perfectionism - BBC article

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by balto, Feb 21, 2018.

  1. Lainey

    Lainey Well known member

    You're spot on! That so explains my own non-perfectionism, yet stressful reactions. Your realization of 'trying to live up to the expectations of some other people" is the gist of much of my life. I love the term you adopted of 'adaptive perfectionism'.
    EileenS and andy64tms like this.
  2. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes! Wanting safety, love, security
    karinabrown and Lainey like this.
  3. fern

    fern Well known member

    This is the second time I've read an article that shocked me with the possibility that I may well be a perfectionist. I've never, ever considered myself one. I've always assumed I was quite the opposite. I'm chronically late and a huge procrastinator, and I never try very hard to "master" anything. I usually quit as soon as the effort gets hard, even with things I really enjoy. I thought perfectionists were all super good at something, diligent, obsessive about mastery, appearance, and promptness. I was wrong! The most important message I took from this article is that perfectionism is not about behavior, but about the voice inside your head.

    Since reading these articles, I've done some more reading about how what I perceive as laziness in myself can be a response to that perfectionist internal voice. I quit piano lessons after a year because I wasn't good enough fast enough. I have assumed I just wasn't good at so many things because I wasn't *immediately* good at them, and so I figured it wasn't worth the effort to try, and I was embarrassed to publicly fail (e.g. sports). I usually tell myself I don't care enough to try, but I'm not sure that's true.

    I've realized that the brilliant thing about procrastination is that I force myself to wait until perfection is obviously not an option so my most pressing goal becomes just getting the thing done on time, not doing it perfectly. Otherwise I spend hours/days/weeks/months starting and stopping, deleting, fretting, starting over, feeling inadequate. Procrastination saves me from that, plus there's the adrenaline rush that helps me supercede the tendency to piddle around trying to get it right. That said, "procrastination" and creating a sub-par product is not the same for me as I know it is for others. My overnights in college were full-out, hardcore work sessions, and I was still turning in A- work. But I knew that I could have done better. Or at least I suspected I could. I was afraid to try hard enough to find out and discover that I actually didn't have the ability I and others thought I had. That plagued my career, too. I held myself back from standing out and advancing many times because of a terror of being found out, which I disguised from myself as not caring enough to try.

    And the inner voice isn't mean, but it's anxious. It wants so badly for me not to look dumb or incompetent or inadequate or unworthy. But in using its fear to pressure me not to care too much or try too hard lest I fail, it ends up making me feel that way often. Every time I'm late, every time I'm unprepared for a meeting, every time I make a mistake that I could have avoided if I'd worked harder. It ruminates on those things and invites me to back off even more, until I disappear or no one expects too much of me. Which is not really where I want to be.

    Any other "lazy" perfectionists on here? Have you delved into the source of your perfectionism and the way it keeps you from achieving or challenging yourself? I'd love to hear from others who express their perfectionism in this way.
    andy64tms, EileenS and Lainey like this.
  4. EileenS

    EileenS Well known member

    Very well written Fern and gives me very good insight into this trait. I hope professionals on this site read your post, it's so well written. This isn't me, but it sounds like my oldest brother. He's 11 years older than me and I grew up hearing and watching the worry and frustration it gave my parents that he was brilliant and gifted at art, design, and math, but would either quit for what appeared to us for no reason, or would take forever to do something such as a small renovation project. His lateness has been legendary in our family. My mother always thought his kindergarten teacher keeping him back a year (for looking so young she said) was the cause of this trait becoming so strong and wished she had insisted he continue on with his classmates, since he was already ahead of them in arithmetic and printing. Who really knows what all thr causes were when he was also this way by nature, because my parents knew the real cause was he was a perfectionist.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2018
    andy64tms likes this.

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