The Intentionality of Perfectionism

I am a recovering perfectionist. And, while probably never totally cured, I am light years from where I used to be! Gratefully.

I’ve told the story before of the Christmas decorations my children hung on one quadrant on the tree which I needed to rearrange after they went to bed. But it goes way back for me, as the “good girl”, who needed to get the best grades and be at the top of the class. I think a few of you can relate. And I can regale you with stories of crying over my one C I received in 8th grade or not making it on the cheerleading squad – 4 times. But that’s not the point.

I’ve spent years learning to let go of the need for other’s approval as THE driving force in my life. I’m sure I’ve fallen into berating myself for being “that kind” of person at some point in my life. But I’ve come to recognize that there is a really good aspect of perfectionism: it is a fabulous lesson in setting an intention.

There is a lot of research that supports the notion that when you set an intention to do something, the odds increase of you actually achieving that goal. And if you write it down, your odds go up. Same with telling someone about it. Visualizing it daily also plays into the equation. Or, in the case of the perfectionist, believing with your whole being that you will do what it takes to achieve that goal. It’s not such a bad thing.

If I had not had such tenacity and determination to get good grades, if I couldn’t already “see” that report card and the kudos I’d be getting, it would not have had such a great chance of happening. And I got that thanks to that little perfectionist streak.

Today I have learned to use the good aspects of that and apply it in situations where it matters. Not because I need someone’s approval, but because it’s something that is important to me and aligns with my values and goals. Maybe being a (recovering) perfectionist isn’t so bad after all.