Perfectionism has plagued me for most of my life.
For years, it sabotaged me from eating healthy, working productively, and from having financial freedom.
My perfect diet streak
Take eating healthy for example: In my mid-twenties I started to gain weight. I knew I needed to diet, so I joined a weight loss program. The day before my first class I ate my “last supper” will all the forbidden foods I could think of: Snickers as an entre, banana split for the main course, and ketchup chips for dessert. After I finished, I vowed never to eat junk food again.
For two years I was a food angel — I loved rice cakes, low-fat cottage cheese, and veggies. And I lost a ton of weight. But then, one day, a Dorito mysteriously ended up in my mouth (I’m still not clear how it got there.)
Enter my perfectionism
My streak was over. My diet was ruined for the day. I thought to myself, I’ll jump back on a diet tomorrow. But while I’m here, I might as well have another “last supper.” I ate (wolfed) two Kit Kat’s, a bag of Miss Vickie’s, and washed it all down with a bottle of Coke.
The next day came, and this thought popped into my mind: “Yesterday you messed up Avraham, that means your diet for this week is ruined, there are only a few more days until next week, so start back on your diet again next week. You’ll have a clean slate and an awesome week.” So I had a few more “last suppers.” And if you haven’t guessed already, the next week was a food disaster because I wanted to have a perfect month.
It took me over a year to get back on track. But by then, I had lots of “last suppers,” and I gained back all my weight (plus some interest.)
Being blogged down
Perfectionism has held me back from doing my best work too. Take my blog for example. I used to spend a tremendous amount of time writing a blog post. I would edit it to death: After writing for a couple of hours, I’d edit it, send it to my editor, re-edit it, send it back to my editor, and re-edit the re-re-edit. And to top it off, I would spend hours surfing the net trying to find “perfect” photos. My perfectionism made each blog post an exhausting 8-hour journey, which in turn, gave me a gag reflex everytime I sat down to blog. It had such an impact on me, I stopped blogging for almost a full year.
Just like my dieting and blogging, perfectionism held me back from taking control of my finances too.
I couldn’t decide on an official start date to budget. I was waiting for the “perfect” time to start — after the vacation, when I get my bonus, after the kids go back to school, etc. But after a pushing off budgeting for over a year, I realized that there never is a “perfect” time to start. Life always has another challenge around the corner waiting.
And once I started budgeting, my old dieting mentality began to slither into my mind: “You’re over budget today by $35, so you might as well buy that iPod Nano you’ve been eyeing. You can start fresh tomorrow.”
And just like dieting, the cycle of on the budget/off the budget became a constant struggle for me. On the budget for two months, and then off for a day, which in turn lead me to go off for a month. Back on the budget again, and then off, etc. You get the point.
Looking back, it’s easy for me to see how my perfectionism from holding me back from living my life. But at the time it wasn’t so obvious. In fact, I’d brag to others that I was a perfectionist. And why not? On my diet, I lost over 40 pounds and didn’t gain an ounce back for over two years. I used to get fan emails from my blogs because they were visually appealing and read well.
It was only after a deep introspection that I realized that perfectionism was holding me back from taking action and being consistent in critical areas of my life. At first, I felt betrayed — like finding out an old friend who I loved was secretly sabotaging me for years.
After that “ah-ha” moment, I took a step back and slowly let go of the concept of “perfect” and embraced a “good-enough” attitude. For me, good enough means 85% or better — that’s an “A” in my books. Letting go of that extra 15% makes me more balanced and happy.
Today, I enjoy eating cauliflower and the occasional soft chocolate cookie — without guilt. I write and send out my blogs that are “good enough.” And when I go over my planned budget, I brush it off as a lesson learned, and move on.
Bye, bye, perfectionism. It was nice knowing you, but I’ve found someone better. It’s called “good-enough,” and we’re a much better match.
>>> Let me ask you a Q…
Do you have a perfectionist mindset that’s holding you back?
If so, what would happen if you could let it go? How could your life look different?
Let me know in the comments below…