Perfection Paralysis

Perfection Paralysis. Know what that is? I do. Intimately. Uncomfortably. This fact was once again brought home to me as I was scrubbing the floor of our en suite bathroom. No matter how hard I scrubbed, there was one more spot to do. I almost felt like Lady Macbeth, muttering, “Out damned spot” time and time again. Bearing in mind that we were leaving on our annual big vacation in less than 3 hours. This unfortunate tendency to want things just right, more often than not, leads me to immobility. This immobility or paralysis is often misread as laziness. It is anything but.

My frenzied cleaning of the house, untimely as it was, had to be perfect. I didn’t want a single dust mote to blight the horizon. Now, had it been my other half, he would have been more than happy to do a good job and leave it at that. And it is people like that, like him, who more often than not, get more accomplished. Why? Because they realise that perfection is a ridiculous and untenable ideal.

Perfection paralysis is not an urban yuppie myth either. Ask any number of people who can’t or won’t start on a project for fear that they will not be able to complete it to the highest standard. Writers, artists,students, who are trapped in the fear of failing even before they have begun. Why is it that for people like us good enough is never good enough?

At a recent PTA meeting at my daughter’s school, her textiles teacher proceeded to tell me about her perfectionist tendencies. How she would rather unpick an entire cushion because of one wrong stitch that even the teacher had reassured her was barely visible. At this my daughter had turned to me with a wry smile and said, “You know where I get that from…” Yes, indeed I did.

Which has now made me resolve to allow myself to be a little easy on myself. To relax those impossible standards, give myself, and others around me a little wriggle room. Perhaps that will finally motivate me to get all those unfinished tasks completed. They don’t have to be perfect, they just need to get done.



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