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Perfectionism 101: the good

If you’re reading this, you’re probably in PUB101 (hi!) or a teacher for PUB101 (also hi!). But! There is also the possibility that you (like me) are a perfectionist (or think you might be) and have come to learn! And in that case, I would like to share some casual basics I’ve discovered. Welcome, folks, to Perfectionism 101: an introduction to the good, the bad, and the really bad.

Let’s start off with the good, so I don’t immediately bum you out. The good side of perfectionism is probably what you’re most familiar with if you A) are not a perfectionist or, B) are a (newbie) perfectionist who has yet to experience burnout.

The first burnout, by the way, can either be your villain origin story or wake-up call. But, as I said, let’s start with the good.

The good side of perfectionism is the work ethic and attention to detail. This is one of the ways your perfectionism can serve you well. And the ultimate goal is for your perfectionism to serve you rather than you serving it.

One way (that’s ideal but not always easy) is to think of these “good” aspects of perfectionism as tools that you carry around with you but only use when you need them. This means recognizing your attention to detail as one of your strengths but not letting it be something you cling to as a primary facet of your identity.

Wooo eye for detail! Booo perfectionism!

If you’re like me, this will be part of the larger objective to undo the subconscious linkage between performance and self-worth.

Yes, it feels good to do well.

Yes, you should be proud of yourself when you do well.

No, you are not a shitty person for not always doing something or not always doing it well.

In fact, if you’re really like me, you should also know that you’re not any less worthy of praise, love, success, or kindness as a human if you happen to fuck something up on the first try.

But this, like all other work, is also going to take some time and endurance. So if you are really, really like me, please also know that you should not shame yourself for slipping up at times and reverting back to old habits or mindsets.

That would make you a perfectionist at releasing perfectionism which is completely useless. Trust me, I know.

In summary! Embrace your work ethic; own your eye for detail! BUT start becoming aware of when it is the right time to step back and let something go. Someone told me that filmmakers never finish a movie; they abandon them.

Let’s start there. Give yourself permission to abandon your movie. It’s good enough as it is.

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