How to control your stresslevels: embrace imperfectionism

In October I promised to write some posts on what I belief are ingredients to control our stress levels.  First of all I believe we need to learn to make more choices.  Almost as importantly,  we need to learn to embrace imperfectionism.

We are raised to become perfect.  We get advise in school how to get higher points, we get annual reviews at work and participate in continuous improvement programs.  Everyone shares his best moments online and set a standard.

My mother runs a perfect household but I've often seen her in stress about it.  I carry some pride in my household chaos. Clothes to iron wait very long and patiently to get treated but I iron my clothes less and less. I hate cleaning so the situation needs to be bad before I get into action in between the visits of our cleaning help.  I don't see the point of cleaning up the children's toys all the time if they'll pull them out again within the next 5 minutes.  We can leave on a weekend with our breakfast cups waiting empty but unwashed in the sink.  I'll only stress about it when the mess starts to grow too big. And I am convinced I am doing damn well like this without any guilt feeling.

I hit the publish button on this blog quite easily and I roll my eyes when I hear other bloggers get a blogging dip because they didn't find time to rework their pictures.  Did they say reworking pictures? Really, you guys are doing so?  Well at least I get frequent posts here that I enjoy without blogging dip even though they are written in a language that is not my mother tongue including all the mistakes that come with it.  I enjoy writing about the fun things I did over the weekend because it reinforces my good memories, even though it resembles the posts of the week before and even though the text is a bit incoherent and each copywriter cringes when reading my result.

In some domains I am perfect at being an imperfectionist.  But at school I always have been a top student. I've not learned how to fail, only how to do better or be the best and win prices.  And a few years ago I got a 360° profiling at work where co-workers scored me quite high on perfectionism.  That profile score was rather negative and has been a real eye-opener to me and has given me a lot of food for thought. I realised how perfectionism can be really counter-productive.
While I eg avoid taking too much time from my colleagues and only discuss with them a project proposal when I feel I've really advanced well on it and it's well rounded, I might have gone too far on my own and I'm on the wrong track. Or I've been searching too long on my own for solutions that could have been fixed much quicker if I collaborated faster and dared to show my imperfect drafts and admit I was stuck. My perfectionisme makes me less perfect. Well isn't that ironic?

It is the perfectionists that want to perform that are most prone to get a burn-out...not the slackers.  If you are aiming to be perfect, you are set to fail. If you want to control everything, you'll lose control. It's perfectionism that causes my fears.  It is a source of stress.

We should all embrace imperfectionism a bit more. We should learn to say fuck it now and then.  We should feel proud of medium results.  We should aim selectively for less results (and make choices!). That doesn't mean striving for mediocracy or failure.  It means we choose ourselves once and not what others (and we) think of us.  It means setting realistic expectations for ourselves, being mild for ourselves and accepting that we've done everything we could in our power and that that is sufficient.  It means we accept we do not need to achieve all the time.

It reminds me of Franciscus from Assissi:
God, grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

(inspired by Tifosa and  Liese and  Leen)


Le petit requin said…
Oh, wat heb je gelijk! Ik herken heel erg hoe je dat perfectionisme op sommige gebieden helemaal niet (huishouden, wadisda? Mijn blog is niet bepaald innovatief, foto's bewerken stopt bij een copyrightje...) en op andere dan weer net heel hard. Ik heb ook al de commentaar gekregen dat ik sneller bij collega's mag/moet aankloppen. Ze hebben gelijk, maar dan tegelijk een productiviteitstellertje hebben en commentaar geven van zodra je misschien toch net niet productief genoeg bent, mja, dat is perfectionisme dan net aanmoedigen, of zo voelt het toch.
Els said…
hier een zware aanhanger van de 80-20-regel, dat helpt goed maar niet altijd ;-)
Leen said…
Geweldige quote van de Franciscus!
Ik was ook een echte perfectionist... en ja ik heb er nog altijd moeite mee om dingen te laten voor wat ze zijn maar amai dat is serieus gebeterd. Zelfs in die mate dat ik volle wasmanden niet meer zie staan en de dag voor de poetshulp komt ineens hun bestaan terug opmerk. Achja zolang ge iets hebt om aan te trekken zal het allemaal wel loslopen! :)

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