I am a recovering perfectionist. I’ve worked really hard on getting rid of my perfectionist tendencies over the last few years. A few years ago I even did a short course on perfectionism. The thing I remember most about the course was the first task, which was to send a work email and only read it though once before sending it. Say what?!
I hadn’t realised how many times I did read through emails before sending them until I had to complete my first perfectionism-busting task. Eventually I managed to get my email proof-reading down to just the once and over time I have learned to aim for ‘good enough’ instead of perfect.
I really thought I’d come a long way.
Until this morning.
Today is harvest festival at my daughter’s school and every child was asked to bring in a piece of fruit. Remembering late last night, I shoved the only piece of fruit I could find in her bag – an apple wrapped in a piece of kitchen towel. I did check out the bananas but they were so black they were really only good for the compost heap or some banana brownies.
I didn’t give the fruit a second thought this morning. In fact to be honest I was just pleased that I had remembered at all.
But then, as I walked back down the lane, having dropped my daughter off at school, chatting to a friend about her daughter’s party tomorrow, it passed us.
The clouds parted and angels sang as two huge bouquets of fruit wrapped in sparkly cellophane all tied up with a big silver bow floated past me.
Underneath the two huge bouquets of fruit were two very small boys.
I felt awful.
I had shoved a 3 week old apple wrapped in a bit if kitchen paper in my daughter’s school bag and other mums were sending their children in with bouquets of fruit.
Clearly I was far from perfect. In fact at that point I didn’t think my solitary apple was even ‘good enough’.
Had I misunderstood the note that had come home? I was sure it just said bring in a piece of fruit. I probably did throw a few apples in a bag last year but you see this year I’ve finally got into a proper routine with my shopping. It’s delivered every Wednesday morning, my organic fruit and veggies are delivered Friday morning and that’s the lot. I no longer make special trips to the supermarket thus freeing up my time and quite frankly my sanity.
So this morning with my fruit and veggie box due in a few hours time we really did only have one apple and a few overripe bananas.
When I saw the fruit bouquets every ounce of my perfectionist personality was screaming at me for those few moments that I was clearly far from perfect on the harvest festival front.
Thankfully my friend who was busy juggling the school run, the preschool run, work and planning tomorrow’s birthday party came to my rescue. When I joked (my usual response to mortification and shame) ‘That’s put my apple wrapped in kitchen towel to shame‘ my friend cried out ‘Oh no I completely forgot! I didn’t send in anything!I’ve got a pineapple sitting at home!’
And suddenly it no longer mattered (note: having now attended said birthday party I discovered another Mum didn’t even know about the fruit. A poor show all round for us!).
That’s when I realised that perfectionism is often closely tied up with comparison and in my experience comparisons are rarely helpful whether in business or at the school gate. When it comes to running your own business the danger with comparing yourself to others is that you are probably trying to compare apples and oranges (excuse the pun). For example:
- They have probably been in business longer.
- They may have had more start-up capital.
- They may have more time available, etc.
The dangers with perfectionism in your business are:
- You never launch anything (perfectionism and procrastination very often go hand in hand).
- You deliver products or services late. Your customers won’t thank you for that.
- You produce something near perfect and are then unable to meet your own ridiculously high standards in the future.
So just don’t do it.
There will always be someone with a bigger fruit bouquet than you.
Are you a perfectionist?
What have you done to overcome your perfectionist tendencies? Do you constantly compare yourself unfavourably to others?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.