Clean Thinking

Perfectionism: beholden to someone else’s decisions

Hello, perfectionists! I’m talking to you!

The interesting thing about perfectionism is that it often comes from someone else’s expectations about what you should do. And someone else’s expectations come from their decisions about what’s important or urgent.

This is true whether or not it is reality or your perception of reality. In other words, the person making a decision (say, your boss) might not actually be telling you something is URGENT, yet you interpret it that way because… well, because it’s your BOSS, so ANYTHING they ask MUST be URGENT!!!!!

Right? (Sound familiar?)

Either way, whether others are explicitly dictating the urgency of their needs and your role in delivering, or it’s just something you FEEL, the end result is the same: you now have an imperative, and you must deliver… and do so perfectly, right?


Consider this: what if YOU made all the decisions?

You will still have a boss, you will still have a partner or a kid or parents or anyone else whose decisions you feel subject to today. The difference is that:

  1. You can make a proactive decision whether or not you’re on board, and
  2. You can determine the level of importance and urgency FOR YOU.

I remember the first time I tried this out at work. It was as simple as telling my boss, “I can absolutely do what you ask, but I also have 3 requests from So-and-So, and this other urgent demand from Who-and-Who. I’m deciding to put your request in Position X in the queue to ensure I do a good job. Do you agree, or should we talk about how to break the bad news to the others?”

This is not the only way to proactively make your own decisions to manage expectations about what is being asked of you, so that you can get out of the perfectionist cycle of pleasing others. There are LOTS of other ways to go about it. All I want my perfectionists to know is that you can take a measure of control back.


Now, this approach doesn’t work if you are not really thinking through what you want or need and listening to your heart. If you SAY you’re making your own decisions, yet you’re really deciding what you believe the other person WANTS you to say, game over. You are going to still be a slave to that perfectionism.

 

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