My name is Gregory…and I am a perfectionist…
My number 1 goal for 2014 is to be in the best health of my life. Logically, here is the day where I must face this part of me, which sleeps so deep inside of me that I never dared to admit it or look at this demon face to face.
Yes, to be a perfectionist is to have a demon inside of you. I swear.
I remember when I was 18, I was preparing for a job interview at Mac Donalds and someone told me: “They’re gonna ask you about your qualities and flaws. As a flaw, say that you’re a perfectionist and that you pay attention to everything…it’ll sound good”.
But no, being a perfectionist doesn’t do any “good”. Not to me and not to my closed-ones who see it or maybe even suffer from it.
Perfectionism is a disease and today is the day I must face it in order to go the next level. Zelda, I am coming to save you !
For the last few weeks, my little sister, probably inspired by my original questions, has been asking me: “So, how about your week? Good? How much from 1 to 10?”
Most of the time, I answer: “Mmm, 6….alright maybe 7”.
Most of the times, she replies: “Awwwwww my brother, for real? Me, I would give it 8,5” 🙂
But nothing special happens in her life. Nothing in my opinion that justifies an 8.5!
But recently I digged a little deeper to know what happens inside of her that doesn’t inside of me.
My little sister is more patient than me. She is less demanding. She is not hard with herself. She believes things will happen to her and that waiting is all she has to do. She is an artist and she believe that as long as her creativity is flowing, everything is fine. She looks serene. Serene like an 8.5 🙂
Yes I am very demanding with myself. I treat myself as if I was my own slave. Perfectionism is a disease because when I go to bed at night, I always feel unsatisfied. I always feel I could have done more or better.
There are only 4-5 times each year where I go to bed filled with satisfaction. It’s when I accomplish something, when a great opportunity shows up or when I am about to move abroad.
After this conversation with my little sister, I spent the night doing what I never did before. Looked for information about perfectionism, to know what it is, where it comes from and how to treat it. I even listened to a whole 2 hour lecture from a Harvard teacher, while taking notes.
Perfectionism is a wide topic but the main question in my opinion is probably the following : Do you suffer from it or not ?
Me ? Oh boy, you have no idea how much this thing makes me suffer.
By definition, perfectionism is the absolute fear of failure. It is a fear that paralyzes you, that incapacitates you, that prevents you from doing things and delay it. When I say “fear of failure”, no I don’t mean that you are afraid of the actual act of losing. It’s the consequences of losing that terrifies you (shame, the judgment of others..). It is a fear that manifests itself in the areas of your life that are the most important to you.
Here are the signs that I am a perfectionist :
- When I cook and chop vegetables, a demon rises inside of me and an inner-voice starts judging me and checking if I cut vegetables perfectly.
- I have incredibly high goals:
- I don’t want to be in shape, I want to make the Olympics.
- I don’t want to run a marathon, I want to run from France to Japan.
- I don’t want to go for a hike, I want to climb Mt Everest.
- I don’t want to speak 3 languages very well, I want to speak all of them.
- I believe my resources in terms of time and energy are endless..
- I procrastinate: I can’t do things perfectly today so I say I will do them tomorrow. But it turns out I can’t do them perfectly the next day either so once again I delay and I delay and I delay.
- I am ashamed to be single, to live with my mom and to have financial difficulties (In theory, a perfectionist believes that doing things perfectly will minimize negative feelings such as shame…)
- I want others to be perfect too.
- When I accomplish something amazing, it only makes me happy for a few hours, until I go to bed. When I wake up in the morning, I am always back to square one.
- When I do something, it’s all or nothing!
- I am only looking for the woman of my life. I am not looking, flirting or dating any woman that, in my opinion, doesn’t belong in this category.
- I only focus on my future goal. I don’t think about my happiness during each day that separates me from this future goal.
- I believe I’ll be happy, all set and done when my next goal is reached.
- I am not expecting any arguments inside my relationships.
- I am anxious. Period.
It is very hard for a perfectionist to admit he is one. It is even harder to be willing to treat it. In fact, if you tell me that my athletic goals, the best athlete I can be and my Olympic dream are outside manifestations of this inner-demon, I am going to feel super sad 😦 Don’t think that you’re going to save me by saying this. All that will do is remove the foundation piece of that thing called MYSELF. If you remove perfectionism, MYSELF collapses. And that makes me really afraid.
But why is that ?
Because for a perfectionist, there’s only way to succeed : do things the way he does them, i.e. be a perfectionist.
But dear perfectionist friend, you can breathe now, here is the bowl of oxygen 🙂
There are two groups. On one side “perfectionism” and on the other “to be ambitious and committed to excellence”. These two groups have the same final goal however, they are completely different from each other.
And the good news for you perfectionist friend is that people committed to excellence are happier, healthier and perform BETTER than perfectionists.
Here is the ultimate différence between a perfectionist and someone committed to excellence:
A perfectionist wants to go from point A to point B. For him, there’s only one way to go to point B: the highway! Going straight, full speed, no deviation, all the time). A perfectionist is not comfortable with the unexpected, last-minute change and different ways of doing things. He “fails to learn” and that is why he is more incline to give up after an obstacle.
Someone committed to excellence wants to go from the same point A to the same point B. He knows the journey will be filled with challenges but he “learns to fail” and sees each moment as a learning opportunity. To him, enjoying the journey is as important as the destination. He understands the journey will be full of fast moments but also breaks, recoveries and unexpected.
Here is an attempted comparison between the life of a perfectionist and that of someone committed to excellence:
Only thinks about point B
Learn from each challenges
Point B = SUCCESS 🙂
Point B = SUCCESS 🙂
Learn from each challenges
Only thinks about point C
Point C = SUCCESS 🙂
Point C = SUCCESS 🙂
Perfectionists, despite their anxiety, are proud of their “hard-work” ethic because to them, it is the fastest way to success.
Well this is wrong!
Because the person committed to excellence is happier and therefore, his work approach and lifestyle are more sustainable.
If you are a perfectionist and you’re suffering from it, here is the way out:
You can start by saying: “I am_____________ but I don’t want to be_____________ “.
You need to be aware of the behaviour you want to change. You saw my list, I want to change all of it (here is my perfectionism talking!). No, what I would like to change the most is to see my happiness and smile be more stable.
2. To focus on the effort and reward it.
Think about each day rather than only the destination. Reward and be proud of yourself when you attempt something new, even if it looks meaningless.
For example today, I bought some food just before getting in the train for Paris. My inner-perfectionist was saying: “I am going to ask for a napkin and a plastic fork at some shop and then I’ll eat in the train once I’m comfortably seated”. I don’t want to be a perfectionist anymore so I did things as different as possible! I parked my car. Laid back against the barrier of a bridge. Took my salad and ate with my fingers.
3. Active acceptation.
You need to accept that this will always be inside of you. You need to accept it, actively, by putting yourself in situation where there will be deviations, critics, failures and persons who will say “no” to you.
In 2013, during that conference in Milan where I won that international public speaking contest, a guest-speaker taught me that perfectionists say “No” to every opportunities where they won’t look “perfect”. This is why they will miss a lot of opportunities.
Right after winning this contest, someone offered to me to present a public speaking event, 3 days later…in Italian!
My inner-perfectionist probably thought: “What? In Italian….but I can barely speak it!”. The truth is that my perfectionism was afraid to speak italian in public, make mistakes and look… “average”.
But when I realized this, I said yes, accepted the challenge and did present that event in Italian. Every 5 words, I was laughing at the sounds my mouth was making and the audience was smiling too. At the end, one person came to me to teach me how to conjugate one verb. All the others told me how awesome it was I did this.
Do you see what happens?
The “perfect” guy only speaks English and French, and says “No” to everything else.
The “excellent” guy speaks English and French but realized is also able to present an event in a language he’s only been studying for a month.
My name is Gregory. I am a PERFECTIONIST but I don’t want to be a PERFECTIONIST anymore.
I want to be happy, go to my point B: become the best athlete I can be, enjoy this life journey and learn from every step whether it is in France at my mom’s, in Rio, in Tokyo or in space.
You know the saying: “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you”, right?
Well, if want to help yourself or a perfectionist you know, all you have to do is take this saying backwards:
“Don’t do to yourself what you don’t want done do to others”
Never. Never would I dare to treat a friend the way I treat myself. Never.
This week again, show the change, be the best athlete you can be, come closer to the highest version of yourself and don’t give up doing what you love. Remember that when you want to open a door, it’s always the last key on your key-chain that opens the lock.