I’m a recovering perfectionist in the area of career and work. My husband will tell you that it doesn’t translate into the tidying of the house!
If you’ve ever heard me talk about Superwoman/Superman and how they are created, you may have heard the story of the 8 year old and her first maths test. I came home from school so proud that I’d achieved 9 out of 10.
At 8 years old, before the expectations of the world, of society and of my parents had had very much influence on me, I thought 9 out of 10 sounded pretty good.
What I told my Dad he said, “That’s great. What happened to the other 1?”
That day a perfectionist was born.
I don’t blame my parents or anyone’s parents who were doing what they thought was best. They wanted us to have good educations and a bright future and encouraged us as best they could.
From that day, 9 out of 10 wasn’t good enough. I worked harder and harder to achieve the best grades. I wasn’t competitive because it wasn’t about anyone else, although it felt like I was always competing with myself. I even chose chemistry at A level because it was a subject I struggled with and I wanted to improve. I resat exams if I “only” got a B!
I became a lawyer and I worked hard. I started my own legal business and I worked hard. I nearly burnt out and I started suffering panic attacks because I was trying so hard to be the best mum, wife, lawyer and business owner. It was exhausting and it was sad.
I still catch myself tinkering around with a draft blog post, a lease or contract mark up or a set of presentation slides. There’s a draft workshop proposal I’ve been sitting on for weeks! But I am trying. I am trying to learn and accept that done is better than perfect.
That 70% done is enough.
Procrastination is a symptom of stress.
I try, and I keep trying because I don’t want that stress fuelled life anymore. I don’t want that for my children either. A sense that you are never good enough, that you always have to try harder, doesn’t make for a happy and fulfilled life.
When my eldest was 8 years old, one day after school I asked him how his spelling test went. He told me he had got 7 out of 10.
I knew which words were NOT going to come out of my mouth, but I didn’t know what to say instead. I asked which spellings he didn’t know so that we could practice them. I don’t know if that was any better, but it came from a place of good intentions.
I was so proud of his response. Perhaps I have taught him something even inadvertently..
He said “actually, I think 7 out of 10 is quite good”.
I agreed, it was.
And the conversation moved on to what was for tea..
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to recovering from perfectionism,