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Inside The Mind of a Perfectionist – Part 1: 11 Personality Traits of Perfectionism. How Many Do You Have?

by | PERFECTIONISM, PERSONALITIES

What is a Perfectionist?

What do you think of when you hear someone described as a perfectionist? That they do everything effortlessly and perfectly…umm, PERFECT. Right? I’d always thought that too. But there’s so much more to being a perfectionist. The “official” definition of a perfectionist is below.

Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations. Wikipedia

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Inside Mind of Perfectionist-Part 1

Ah Whadda Ya Know Anyway Wikipedia.

Yikes! I’ve been described as “picky”, “anal”, “a perfectionist” for most of my life, and I admit that I do like some things done a certain way. For example, when I decorate the Christmas tree, I sometimes need to arrange and then rearrange several times (okay…a ridiculous number of times) until my eyes finally give it the final approval. It’s a process. A long-ass tedious process.

But being referred to as a “perfectionist” by my friends and family is laughable to me, considering I’ve been the butt of several jokes over the years for my baking, crafting, and hairdo fails. Through my eyes, I am anything but a perfectionist.

But, agreed, it’s a little weird that I have to have the decorations spaced perfectly on the tree, and freak out a bit if there are two red balls hanging next to each other. It’s just a quirky little thing I picked up from my mom, I kept telling myself. I’m not like, ‘mental’ or anything. Geesh.

For years my kids and I made tree-trimming a fun family affair… until they figured out I’d stayed up after they’d gone to bed to re-arrange the entire tree. Gawd – Mother of the Year here. So it’s probably no big surprise to you that the tree-trimming in our house turned into a stressful solo event.

(Click the + in each blue box to see an explanation of the personality trait)

Trait #1. You have trouble relinquishing control.

You’ve been described as a “control freak”, or a “micro-manager”. You don’t trust others to do “it” correctly, so you rarely delegate. 

Am I Alone Here?

I’m pretty sure few women are as intense as I am. It seems after a certain age, women become more relaxed, less serious, spend more time with friends, grandkids…doing things they previously didn’t have time to do.

You’d think, right? Nope. Here I am spinning around on turbo-charge, obsessed with my business, writing blogs, starting more projects than I can keep up with, frantically trying to lose 20 lbs before a surprise invite to the lake comes, and speed reading three books simultaneously. As has been the case my entire life, I have an idea a minute, questions I need to find answers to, and chores to add to my to-do list like a playlist running on repeat in my brain.

I’m always frustrated that ‘this isn’t where I wanted to be at this point in my life’.

Trait #2: You are driven...sometimes to obsession.

You’re an overachiever.  You’re highly motivated. You expect a lot of yourself and can become depressed if you don’t achieve your goals. This can lead to anxiety, blocking of your creativity, and the inability to focus. 

I Have Too Many Ideas.

So may, in fact, that they overwhelm me to the point of rendering me paralyzed to carry any of them out. I’m afraid that if I pick just one and focus on it, it won’t be the right one.

I’m afraid that I won’t execute the one I picked correctly and will have wasted the time I put into that project when I should have chosen a different one that might have been more successful and had taken less work/time.

Multitasker? It’s my middle name. I’m typically working on more than one project at any given time. Ask me how many of them are finished.

Trait #3: You have difficulty making decisions.

You’re afraid you may make the wrong decision. Your self-confidence depends on the choices you make, what you accomplish and how others react to you.  

Welcome To My World (Last Sunday)

I need to made a list. I’m a huge list-maker. To-do lists, shopping lists, mind maps, editorial calendars (scheduled blog posts I’ll write). Getting things out of my head and on paper calms me. Lists let me see everything I need to do, and assure me I haven’t left out anything important.

I spend the next half hour making a list of things I need to get done this week. I spend another half hour turning my to-do list into a schedule, allotting sufficient time to complete each task, and remembering to schedule a bit of free time. My schedule feels well-rounded, efficient and productive. I’ve given myself specific goals I need to meet each day.

Although my schedule is full, I feel more in control , and I know that my mind will be clear when I go to bed knowing what needs to be done the next day. I clean off my desk and curl up with my crocheting and a movie. I go to bed around 2:30 a.m.

Trait #4: You need to be productive and never waste time.

You have an extreme devotion to work and productivity, even if it means giving up sleep or “me time”.  You’ve created “rules” that you follow (and everyone else should too).

If you aren’t being productive, you feel unaccomplished and uncomfortable. You never feel like you’re doing enough or getting enough done in a day. 

Ugh.

When Cee-Lo started singing”Crazy” to me at 6:30 a.m. I was dragging ass. With a cup of hot coffee and my mind full of fog, I shuffled to my desk and looked down at my color-coded schedule I had meticulously detailed the night before.

I had scheduled myself to write a blog today.  I’m not feeling the subject I was going to write about. I’m not familiar with it and don’t have enough information to get started. I need to research it more so I know what I’m talking about.

I wonder if anybody will really be interested in this blog anyway? I’m not in the mood to write it. In fact, I’m not in the mood to write anything.  I’m just not feeling creative today. Maybe I should take today to get more prepared and write the blog tomorrow.

Trait #5: You Procrastinate (getting started)

You wait for the perfect moment to start a project.  You put off starting until you’ve gathered more information, the right tools, but even then still have trouble pulling the trigger. You’re unsure if you should even do this project…maybe you won’t be good enough, maybe others will know more about it than you do and you’ll look stupid…maybe you’ll fail.

You  over prepare, over research, and compare yourself to others when starting a project. You feel you need to do more and do it better than those before you did.

I Feel Confused. Overwhelmed. Paralyzed.

I pour myself more coffee and pick up my phone.

Five text messages to answer. Two voicemails that need responses. I take another sip of coffee and open email. My house payment (that I’d totally blown off) needs to be paid by today. My email program quit working at some point overnight and the replies I’d sent are still sitting in my outbox. The webinar I’d enrolled in last week starts in 15 minutes with no replay. My domain needs to be updated.

..and the playlist loop begins…”I knew I should have gone to bed earlier.” “I knew I shouldn’t have relaxed last night” “Why do I keep staying up so late?” “Now my whole day is screwed up.” “I can’t believe I forgot about that webinar.” “I should have made the house payment last week.”

“Why didn’t  I notice those unsent emails? I need to pay more attention.”  “I’m going to be so off my schedule today.” “How am I going to get all this shit done and write that blog?”

Trait #6: You say "Should" a lot.

You have a constant mental list of things you should be doing. You place excessive demands on yourself.

You have demanding standards for yourself and others. You don’t allow yourself any mistakes. You get upset with yourself when making mistakes, especially if someone else sees them or calls you out.

How many of these traits did you have? Did I end up writing the blog? Will you have any of the remaining 5 traits?

Find out in Part 2. Inside The Mind of a Perfectionist-Part 2: 11 Traits of Perfectionism. How Many Do You Have?To make sure you don’t miss any of my upcoming posts, sign up for updates below!

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Inside the Mind of a Perfectionist - Part 1