What I have failed to realize until recently, is that my perfectionism and vision come at a terrible price. I’m talking about stress. Not normal stress that everyone deals with from day to day mind you, but a different kind of stress. For lack of a better term I’ll call it “fictitious stress”. I call it that because it’s not real (except to me). Those of you who are not perfectionists probably won’t understand. That’s okay, I’m writing this down for me and I’m writing it down because, after 42 years on this planet, I can’t believe I’m just now putting 2 and 2 together and figuring this out. I may need to come back to this post and read it from time to time just to remind me that I’m literally causing much of my own suffering.Let me try to explain to you how I create my own stress… It starts with observation of things that are not perfect. I notice little things all day long and I put them in the memory banks. Once they go in, they stay there until resolved. There they sit; festering and creating stress for me until I address it and get it corrected. It’s like a splinter… it just keeps bugging me until I take care of it. The problem I have is that some of this stress is real, but a large majority of it is simply created in my head.
Here’s an example… Sometimes when I write a post here on this blog, I will spend more time editing and correcting, then I do actually writing it in the first place. If it’s not quite right, I will stress myself out until I fix it and I’m completely satisfied. I’ve written posts, couldn’t get them to sound right (in my head), and after hours of trying to edit and correct, simply gave up and deleted it. Why??? I’m not a professional writer; I’m not getting paid to write this stuff, I simply enjoy getting an idea and then writing about it. I put undue stress on myself for something that should be a source of relaxation.OK, so now I’ve figured something out about myself; now what? Well first, it’s great that I finally recognize it. Don’t get me wrong I’ve always known I was a perfectionist, I just never really noticed how I create my own stress. Now that I can see it, I can work on it. I won’t be able to change overnight, but I can begin to ask myself if my stress is real or not. I still need to figure out how to deal with stress, but more importantly I need to work harder at eliminating the stress that I create in the first place.
I once got a performance review at work that said I hold myself to a higher standard than anyone else ever would. The comment was written under “Areas for Development”. I thought the person who wrote it just put it in the wrong spot; I took it as a compliment. I now understand that it wasn’t. I am my own worst enemy.
[Photo: Flickr / Brian A]