After reading the book “Overcoming Pefectionism”, I don’t think I have servere perfectionism, but I have some symptoms of it.
A bit of background on why I picked this book up in the first place. I found myself being very critical towards myself when I didn’t meet my expectations. Be it in work, or in leisure, or sport. I was a harsh critic when I did not score enough points in basketball. I was harsh on others, when they did not perform to how I expected them to (Although, I was harsh internally, and did not criticize them openly). I had this all or nothing thinking sometimes, and I kept raising the bar to the point where it would be almost impossible for me to be satisfied.
7/10 Free throws? Why not 8/10? You learnt React and Redux? Why not GraphQL, or whatever latest technology there is? I kept looking at what could be achieved, but rarely what I have achieved. I was aware of this negative trait, and so to explore it further, I picked up this book.
Unhelpful VS Helpful Perfectionism
There is an obvious distinct between these two mental models. “Curing” Perfectionism does not mean lowering your standards. It means stopping the unhealthy mental habits you have when you don’t meet your standards. Or as how the book states it:
Perfectionism is defined as trying to achieve demanding standards you have set for yourself, despite negative effects, and basing your self worth on how well you think you achieved your standards.
Despite Negative Effects. This can be both physical (Practicing too much basketball), or Mental (Constantly berating yourself as a failure). When you push through these negative effects for the sake of acheiving demanding standards, you have perfectionism. I do this, but not at an extreme level. I’m aware enough to identify that these are unhealthy habits, and now, putting a finger on it, it helps a lot to really address the issue.
Problem Brought About By Perfectionism
Avoid doing a task, or a situation because you are afraid of failing. I don’t do this.
Similar to avoidance, but putting of doing a task for fear of failure. I don’t do this either.
Something I’m most guilty of out of the 3. Constantly checking to see how i’m doing by comparing with my peers. If my peer can learn all these technologies and build a beautiful repsonsive web application, why can’t I? If my peer can hit 9/10 3 pointers, why can’t I?
There are 3 sub categories of Performance Checking: 1. Constant Retesting to make sure you really are worthy, and it was not by luck. 2. Comparing with others to see how I’ve done 3. Seek reassurance from others on my performance
I’m most guilty of performance checking, and seeking reassurance from others. Am I doing my job well enough? Is my boss praising me for my work? If he doesn’t does it mean I’m doing a bad job? (Of course not!)
Constantly restesting my skill happens in basketball. I hit 7/10 free throw. Bah! I was lucky. Let me shoot another 20 just to make sure I got it. (Repeat n number of times)
Being aware of these now, I have to address them. If no one reassures my work done, it’s fine. It’s not their job to do so. If I hit a certain standard, stop retesting yourself, and placing doubt on your ability.
Fictions of Perfectionism
The harder you work, the better you’ll perform
FALSE. If you overwork yourself, in sports or at work, you’ll be burnt out, and perform a lot worse than how you planned to in the first place.
To get ahead, you have to be single minded, and exclude all other interest
False again. By engaging in other activities that are entirely unrelated to your work, you’re exploring and activating parts of your brain you don’t usually use at work. This is how creativity arises. By transferring knowledge cross activities. Patience from drawing, Endurance from sports, Persistance from basketball, Focus from reading. These are attributes have no fixed categories, and can be applied everywhere.
People notice every single detail, and can be critical
People notice details. People don’t notice EVERY single detail. No one thinks about you as much as you think they do. Everyone is busy thinking about what others think about them, including you. So relax! And don’t be concerned at all about what others think.
All or Nothing
The most dangerous thinking of them all. If I can’t do it perfectly, then I won’t do it at all. Thankfully, I don’t have this thinking, and I would accept flaws in my work. In fact, my motto leans more towards “Just Do It”, even if it’s done badly.
There's no such thing as a bad run. Every run improves you even by a bit.
Learn to notice the positives
Don’t discount praises and achieves, and only focus on the negatives. Where did you do well? What did other say about you that was positive? “You defend well, but you improve on your shooting.” Instead of telling yourself that you’re bad because you have poor shooting, also take note how well you’re defending.
That’s not to say that you “Always look on the bright side of life”, and ignore the negatives. Acknowledge the negatives and work on them. But also take awhile to pat yourself on the back for the things well done.
Although there was alot of principles stated in the book, I only extracted out those that stood out to me. I think the bottom line of it all is to Learn to Love Yourself More. Really think about that sentence and what it entails.
Love yourself. Mentally, Physically.
Be compassionate to yourself. Mentally, Physically.
Be forgiving to yourself. Mentally, Physically.
Think about how you would treat your loved one and friends. You don’t be overly critical at them for fear of damaging your relationships. Likewise, don’t be overly critcal at yourself. You would give advice, forgive and support them. Likewise, give advice, forgive and support yourself.