Feeling stuck? Got the impression you’re going round in everlasting circles, never making real progress?
Perhaps you’re a secret perfectionist and you don’t even know it??
To help you decide, here is my list of the top 20 perfectionist behaviours (this doesn’t mean that we do all of them, all of the time, but it’s interesting to see the range of behaviour possible) so that you can see if you recognise yourself.
So, what do “good girls” tend to do? We:
- Overthink things to avoid ‘failure’. Example: we spend hours preparing a presentation and second guessing ourselves, with no major added value.
- Need to feel in control – we spend our lives planning and researching and then find reasons why it might not work and move on to something else. Example: we have creative ideas in our business but only develop them half way before moving onto “the next best thing”.
- Procrastinate – we’re always waiting for something more in order to able to take action: more knowledge, more words, more grammar tips, more confidence, more time etc.
- Have to feel productive – it makes us feel worthy. We like to have a full plate of unimportant things to do so that we can put off the important stuff until tomorrow… this makes us feel productive and proudly busy without having to take action towards things that really matter and that would move the needle on our goals.
- Don’t follow through – we unconsciously self sabotage by setting too many goals or unrealistic or vague goals due to an underlying fear of failure – we protect our potential at all costs by not taking action. Example: we need to know all the grammar rules perfectly before we can speak.
- Have unrealistically high standards so it’s impossible to live up to them. Example: we want to be fluent in X weeks.
- Find it difficult to stay motivated – we need fairly immediate gratification to continue – which is difficult in language learning or business as both take time to develop.
- Worry about what others think / scared of judgement. Example: we’re afraid to make mistakes in front of others because they would see that we’re not “perfect”.
- Want to preserve our image at all costs and be seen as smart.
- Are afraid of things « not being good enough » and ultimately that we’re not good enough (low self confidence).
- Have « all-or-nothing » thinking. Example: if we can’t do this perfectly then we’re not doing it at all…we don’t want to be seen as failing.
- Have a fixed mindset approach to learning. Example: we’re just not good at languages.
- « People please » to gain validation. Example: if we say « yes » to everything, it shows we can handle everything.
- Leave things until the last minute as being under pressure is the only way we can be forced into action.
- Hate wasting effort. There has to be some sort of purpose in our action, we never do something just for the « pleasure» of doing it, and success has to be guaranteed.
- Hate having to make too much effort. We see too much effort as a sign of inadequacy.
- Compare & despair – we look at other people’s achievements or success and use them as an excuse to feel “less than”.
- Feel guilty when we’re relaxing and not working.
- Feel that we have great potential but lack true self belief (e.g. « I believe in my potential but not in myself »…).
- … (add your own).
Even if you recognise yourself in a lot of the behaviours on this list, don’t beat yourself up, it’s not the end of the world! At least now you’re aware of them.
In order to be able to change something, we need to be aware of it.
My own example: have you ever had a great idea and started working on it enthusiastically? You’re really motivated. Then after a break, you come back to the same idea and it has suddenly lost its shine. It doesn’t feel as inspiring as before. So you drop it and move on to something “shinier”. That was me! I’ve got quite a few unfinished projects in my closet. The good news is that I’m much more aware of this behaviour now and am ready to catch myself and pivot before I go into quitting mode.
So have a think. What are your perfectionist tendencies? Make a list to keep track.
In what areas of your life are they showing up? (language learning, work, sports…)
NB: Just so you know, we’re not necessarily a perfectionist in everything we do and that’s why we often miss the fact that we are one.
Happy reflecting! Remember awareness is key. Just start there.
And if you want help moving through these behaviours, contact me for a free chat here.
Photos courtesy of Unsplash: Sigmund, Thought Catalog, Allec Gomes