Which kind of perfectionist are you?

attention creativity habits Jul 01, 2023
Dart in exact center of dartboard

OK, I admit it: I’m a perfectionist.  There I’ve said it.  Sometimes it takes us a while to realize that the standards we hold for ourselves do not serve us in every situation, but sometimes they are exactly what we need.

The process of opening my crochet jewelry Etsy shop brought that endearing trait to the surface in ways I sort of expected.  After all, I know that whenever I have a deadline, cleaning house becomes enormously important. My daughter calls it “procrasti-cleaning.” I’m an expert!

In trying to launch my shop over the past couple of months, I’ve read three how-to books and written and edited copy for my shop, oh, maybe 85 times.  The site is still not launched.

Don’t even get me started on the contortions I’ve put myself through to make the photography look good with my limited knowledge. Hitting publish on those photos is like wanting to drive across town and not leaving the driveway until I know all the lights are green first.  I never pull out of the driveway.

Can you feel my pain?

Along the way, I hired and fired a graphic artist to create a logo. That stalled things for about a month. Then, in frustration, I popped onto an AI-generated site (Looka.com) and created my own logo in about an hour.

The logo-creation process was when I realized that my perfectionism does not stop me; I do keep plowing on. Rather, it can help me understand what I actually want and gives me clarity on my true learning edge.

Are you a perfectionist?

Perfectionism is the bane of creatives. It can be the deadliest of Dreamkillers, right along with its twin sister, Procrastination.  For me, they feed off each other.

I believe that any positive taken to an extreme becomes a negative. High standards are a positive, but when taken to an extreme, those same standards become an obstacle that can halt any creative endeavor.

Perfectionism can spin our life out of control. When we make it impossible to attain the standards we set for ourselves, it can lead to anxiety and depression. It’s like we’re constantly in edit-mode and never hit publish. It leaves us stressed 24/7.

On the plus, side, however, it can make the world better. The standards of a perfectionist ensure quality, reliability and structure.

While researching for this article, I learned there are five different types of perfectionism. Psychotherapist Katharine Morgan Schafler did extensive study during her years as on-site therapist at Google and wrote The Perfectionists Guide to Losing Control: A Path to Peace and Power as a way to help folks like me to get a grip.

When we understand a little better what type of perfectionist we are, we are more mindful of how to work with it. 

Here’s a brief rundown of those five types:

Intense Perfectionist - These are the folks that MUST be perfect, and they expect everyone around them to be perfect as well. Somewhere along the way, the feelings of others take a back seat.

Classic Perfectionist - This is the person with the immaculate desk that can’t handle pencil out of place.  Everyday life can cause high stress because their standards are so rigid.

Parisian Perfectionist - When you think of a people-pleaser, they’re often this type of perfectionist. Perfection, to them, is the absence of discomfort for others no matter the impact on themselves.

Procrastinator Perfectionist - Hesitation for this type of perfectionist is the norm. They are always sitting in square one waiting for the perfect conditions in order to begin.

Messy Perfectionist - This person has a problem with completing a project. They purchase all the supplies, then set them aside to do later. They are serial starters and can have many half-baked projects.

If you’re curious about your own style of perfectionism, here is a quiz to help understand your perfectionist type.  I learned I’m a Procrastinator Perfectionist, with hints of Messy on the side. 

Perfectionism is not always a negative trait that we need to squelch. By understanding our tendencies, we can prepare for them and move forward in a healthy and more balanced way.

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