Do you ever find yourself resisting taking a step towards something new because you know your performance is bound to be less than perfect? Do you ever beat yourself up because you made a mistake, or somehow didn’t measure up to your high expectations?
If so, you just may be a perfectionist. And if you are, you’re suffering from one of the most toxic ways I see people get in their own way. When your personal rule (spoken or unspoken) is that everything you need to do needs to be perfect, failure is inevitable.
Why? Think of it this way. Draw a ten-inch line on a piece of paper. On the very left end, write “Failure,” and on the very right, write “Success.” Now, a quarter inch from the right, draw another line through the ten-inch line. That gives you a line divided into two sections, one that is 9.75 inches and one just 0.25 inch.
You now have a visual representation of the perfectionist’s definitions for success and failure. The 0.25 inch space is your margin for success. Anything less than that becomes failure. Put another way, based on this 10-inch line idea, you have a 97.5 percent chance of failing in anything you do.
And when you judge yourself a failure, your self-confidence takes a hit. Not only that, you never reinforce the positive things that you do, because you’re too busy flogging yourself for the imperfections you see. Together, those two things have a corrosive effect on your potential.
Instead of a binary measurement system (perfection or failure), try breaking that 10-inch line into segments and labeling them. For example:
- Nearly perfect
Divide the line into segments for each. Next time you are tempted to judge your efforts for imperfection, ask yourself, “Where on that line does this really fall?”
After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As a speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book 101 Ways to Get Wild About Work and his E-book The Occupational Adventure Guide offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.