Is perfectionism holding you back, without you realizing it?
Waiting for confidence keeps so many ADD / ADHD Adults stuck and paralyzed. The biggest stumbling block to confidence that I encounter in my ADHD Coaching clients is their perfectionism.
Perfectionists need to know that what they’re doing or saying is perfect before they can proceed. Because perfectionists are often operating under unconscious assumptions, they may not realize that they’re even practicing perfectionism at all.
Here are three kinds of perfectionist patterns that can really cause problems.
Unrealistically High Work Standards
Of course there are some professions where “perfect” is required. But perhaps you fiddle way too long over your formatting, or are afraid to make a recommendation when the answer isn’t clear-cut.
If you get frustrated at having to cut short your research, or must proceed with what seems like incomplete information, you may feel like the only one who cares about excellence in a world of slap-dashers.
Don’t let your standards sabotage your job performance! When your need for doing something perfectly conflicts with the organization’s requirements for “getting it done on time,” then your work is NOT perfect in the situation. You’ll need to either change your standards, or change jobs.
Misplaced Personal Priorities
In personal life, perfectionism takes up a lot of time! Are you usually late because you spend too long picking out the perfect outfit? Or haven’t entertained in years because you hate your sofa?
Marissa typically spent exceedingly long on her appearance before leaving the house for a date. By the time she arrived, her boyfriend would be angry and disgusted.
Although Marissa's ADD hyper-focus with styling her hair was an issue, her perfectionist tendencies led to misplaced priorities. Despite having lost several relationships over her chronic lateness, she had a hard time believing the men in her life actually preferred that she show up on time — even with with frizzy hair!
All or Nothing Thinking
You are experiencing perfectionist thinking when you can’t imagine starting a project until you have time to do ALL of it. This is a big reason that home-related projects don't get started for working people with limited free time.
If you find yourself going weeks or months without beginning a clutter-clearing or home repair job at home because there’s “never enough time,” you need to break down that project into its simple action steps. Consider each little step a goal in itself, so you can see yourself making progress in short bursts.
An added benefit of thinking in mini-steps is that each small step is much easier to do. You didn’t really want to spend eight hours at a stretch cleaning the basement, did you?
Yes, this is true for me for house projects and cleaning. Thanks.
Cleaning a whole house is really just a bunch of LITTLE jobs. While I don’t always have time to clean the whole kitchen, I can at least take time to wipe off the counter.
Excellent article. I remember a quote “85% complete is better than 100% perfect”. That quote helped me complete writing my first book – which took wayyy too long to complete.
Brian, excellent quote — and congrats for getting the book done (and evidently other books as well!)
I know I’m an all-or-nothing perfectionist. It’s so bad that, often, if I have an uncompleted task that I owe to someone, and I get an email from that person, I can’t bring myself to even open the email because it’s like opening the box of the overwhelming task I have packed securely away for later.
Sounds like some guilt and shame kicking in with the overwhelm. Avoidance usually makes things worse, since you now have the additional task of coming up with a graceful explanation.
Oh my gosh. Boy does this article really hit home. We ADDers are often advised to just quit being a perfectionist (as if it’s easy to turn off that switch), but this is the first time where I’ve seen it really drilled down into and analyzed into subtypes, which is super-helpful in my self-understanding. Perfectionism can be devastating to career success, especially when you’re self-employed like me. (I’ve often wondered that if I was an employee at a company, where I’d have a boss glancing over my shoulder so to speak, would I not let my procrastination cause me so much grief?)
Heather’s comment could have come out of my own mouth. And when I see that a client’s called & probably left a voicemail, or I see their email I’m afraid to open, it’s as if I’d rather be miserable with that guilt & shame than read or listen to it right away & just “pull the band-aid off”. (Often in fact, the client’s message turns out to be not nearly as harsh as I feared……clients can have an amazing amount of patience, but what actually DOES kill their patience is when their messages go ignored. But my problem is, I dread having to respond with yet another “graceful explanation”…..I keep hoping my response will include the finished work attached. (The quote “Don’t TELL me what you can do; SHOW me what you’ve done” has always stuck with me.
BTW, one last quote I like in reference to procrastination: “You will never FIND the time to do something. You have to MAKE the time to do something.”
Ted, excellent quote. You and Heather and many, many more avoid opening emails / listening to voicemail for fear of being asked for a status update! Keep in mind, just because YOU may be an “all-or-nothing” perfectionist (thinking you can only report on progress when something is completely finished), the person waiting for your work is probably not! That person would think well of you if you proactively gave mini progress reports, showed what you have completed or even informed them if you weren’t going to hit a target date.
When it comes to gaining political “points” at work, proactive communication always wins, even if you inform them something won’t be done on time.
Do you do phone coaching?
You’re really hitting on all of the major issues I have at work and at home and I could use your help!!! This has been my problem since day 1!
My primary work is phone coaching! I would be happy to talk with you about it in a complimentary consultation. Just contact me and we’ll set it up. Just from reading your recent comments in the blog, I know you’re the kind of professional I could really help make some breakthroughs.
Just like Ted and others a hide my head in the ground. Just as my little nephew, I believe that if I cover my own eyes, clients and bosses won’t see me. But I have just recentrly experienced that “the Truth will set you free” is… actually true! I had a bunch of bombs exploding at last at work, home, family, finances! I had it coming but refused to face it. I really felt that long netflix hours, kiwi and diamond skull smashing cristals could actually change reality of make problems fade away (or smash away). Now I am miserably relieved… I opened up to my husband regarding our banckrupt finances and unspeakable debts… I asked him, while he cleaned his nose “are you crying?” “No” he answered. “Then, you should”, I concluded. I have also ignored client messages. And every time I do so, I set higher standards for the barely begun written piece due three months ago. By the way, I am working on a quote for a licitation I BEGGED to participate in almost a year ago by my own initiative… and doing it just now not to get fired… if that is still possible, as I got caught by the CEO who found out the opportunity existed and was told I had not sent the info. Most of the problems I get in I create them with very good will. I thought this could save the company and make me a hero! I am even a perfectionist when it comes to failing!
I would like to know why I am this way : )