Raya Belinsky

By Raya Belinsky, Performance & Leadership Trainer, Mentor in SIM’s Community

We are often too hard on ourselves, others and the world. Being an ideal may be a good target, but striving for it always and in everything, creates a permanent condition of dissatisfaction.

What is perfectionism?
Are you familiar with the expression: "There is no limit to perfection"? Perfectionism is the belief that the ideal can and should be achieved. If the result of the work is imperfect, then it has no right to exist: you need to try and improve it. Trying to do everything at the highest level is praiseworthy, but extreme perfectionism, contrariwise, affects work.

Who are perfectionists?
Perfectionists are people who constantly strive for the ideal: in their appearance, living arrangement and work. Being a perfectionist means expecting too much from yourself and people around you, very critically evaluating yourself, your behavior and the results of your work. For perfectionists, there is only complete failure or deafening success - they do not pay attention to intermediate positive results.

What is the reason for being perfectionist?
Perfectionism has its roots in childhood. It is especially typical for those who were appreciated in childhood (for example, at school). Since then, the child has identified himself and his worth with assessment. He believes that he is worthy of love only when the best result is achieved.

But if grades at school or university are understandable and measurable parameters (there is a clear cause-effect relation: worked and learned hard - got a good score), then in real life everything is different. There are no ready-made grading systems, but there are many unknown parameters and systems. You can’t win with academic knowledge only. It takes practice and experience, which is impossible to get without mistakes. But does the possibility of making mistakes exist in the perfectionist world?

What are the consequences of being perfectionist?
The most important thing is the lack of life satisfaction.

What are the side effects of perfectionism at work?
Could you recognize some of your friends or bosses with speaking steaker “I know better how to do it” and:
• lack of trust to team members;
• hyper responsibility and God syndrome;
• inability to delegate, overloading;
• freezing and nullifying team's capabilities;
• incompleting tasks, it starts to be too big;
• concentration on smart long-term solutions and automation instead of focusing on strategic urgent goals
• micromanagement of other people and catastrophic lack of time.

How do you know that you are a perfectionist?
Your motto: "Perfect or nothing."
Your self-confidence is based on someone else's assessment.
You know, predict and calculate all future outcomes in advance and most of them are negative.
You are delaying starting and finishing things out of fear of doing "imperfect".
You think you’ll be happy if you’ve achieved a goal, but it’s not: either the result is imperfect, or you’re too exhausted to feel joy.

These signs are more or less characteristic of many people. It is important to determine how strong they are expressed in you.

Here is an exercise that will help you understand how your striving for the ideal prevents you.
1. Divide a sheet of paper into 5 columns.
2. In the 1st column, write down the main areas of your life that are important to you. For example:
- Your current project
- Your financial status
- Your physical health
- Your relationship with your team members
- Your relationship with your family
3. In the 2nd column, write what are the advantages the pursuit of the ideal in these areas gives you.
4. In the 3rd column, write what are the disadvantages the pursuit of the ideal in these areas gives you.
5. In the 4th column, write what are the advantages the pursuit of the ideal in these areas gives you for a happy life, in which there is less stress and more pleasure.
6. In the 5th column, write what are the disadvantages the pursuit of the ideal in these areas gives you for a happy life, in which there is less stress and more pleasure.
Compare results 🙂

How to deal with perfectionists?
Go to your childhood and think what was very critical in your life to do perfect? When was it? Who participated in these situations? What was the situation? How often was this happening? What decision did you take? Do you see how 6-7 years old child manage your 35-40-45 years old life?
A person who believes in himself and who made a mistake admits the mistake, analyzes the experience gained, corrects his behavior and makes the next attempt.
This is a normal learning cycle. However, perfectionism blocks any learning.
The main task is to get your thinking out of the usual rut under the sign: "If I was wrong, then I am a loser" and start laying new high-speed routes.
How to do it? An easy and practical way is to learn to love yourself like a friend, like a best friend. Nothing that happens wrong, not by the plan, not till the deadline is the end of the world!
Look at yourself from the outside, through the eyes of your best friend. What would you say to yourself? How would you support? What inspiring thoughts about yourself would you share?

Why is humor the best weapon against perfectionism?
Humor and self-irony are powerful antidotes to perfectionism. When we make fun of ourselves, we seem to be playing with the situation, looking at ourselves from the outside and changing our perspective.
The perfectionist is always very serious and tight-lipped. Humor is liberating, it allows you to become more human. And other people - to see in you the same person as they are. With all the flaws, absurdities and nonsense. The ability to laugh at yourself makes a person more attractive.

How to train your sense of humor?
1. Learn to see the comic
The easiest way is the "clown glasses" exercise. When we put on such imaginary glasses, we can see funny even in the most ridiculous and sad situations. Like in the film "Black Cat, White Cat" by Emir Kusturica. Each time, feeling that you are seized by an attack of perfectionism, put on "clown glasses", look at yourself from the side and answer the question: "What's so funny about this situation?"
2. Use associations
Learn to find common ground between dissimilar phenomena. The ability to draw paradoxical analogies will help you joke wittily and look at the world from a different angle.
3. Do not be afraid of the absurd
"Impenetrable stupidity" uttered at the right moment can defuse the situation. People with a sense of humor will surely spot a logical fallacy and appreciate your ingenuity.
4. Try to rhyme
Jokes in poetic form are remembered for a long time and speak about the versatility of the author.
5. Broaden your horizons
A wide erudition contributes to the development of a sense of humor - read books, communicate with smart people, replenish your vocabulary.
6. Fight the enemies of humor
Do not let yourself be discouraged, give up the idea that the negative prevails in the world, and take time to rest, because mental and physical fatigue discolors life.
Having learned to joke wittily and aptly, you can conquer any audience, save yourself and others from the autumn blues and survive any hardships in life. Remember that many doors open before those who go through life laughing.

***Dedicated to the former version of myself and all my Technion friends.

(article published in https://www.rayabelinsky.com/post/perfectionism)