Wednesday, September 23, 2015

3 Kinds of Perfectionism

When I retired, one of the things I set out to do was to take this blog more seriously. My first step in that direction was to establish a regular posting schedule, something I accomplished with a reasonable degree of success.

Until this fall.

This fall, I'm on campus every day, and teaching more classes than ever before, which is a good thing. I think.

One of the classes is brand new, and I'm building it from scratch as I go. I have a blueprint, but I also want the content to be responsive to my students' needs, and fortunately, it's the kind of class that lends itself to that sort of thing. I'm having fun, but my discretionary time is disappearing fast.

Oh, and I'm trying to finish the final edits on a novel that I want to get out next month.

For some reason, I deluded myself into thinking this would not affect my posting schedule.

So far, in typical perfectionistic style, my strategy has been to run myself ragged, become horribly grouchy and beat myself up for posting later in the day. As you can probably imagine, that hasn't been terribly productive.

It wasn't until I set out to write today's post about perfectionism that I realized how ridiculous I was being. As it turns out, I was engaging in two of the three kinds of perfectionism described by Dr. Gordon Flett, who's done quite a bit of research on these things.

See for yourself:
  • Self-oriented perfectionists are hard on themselves, expecting not only maximum effort from themselves, but also to hit the target every time. Down time and unreached goals are not an option.
  • Other-oriented perfectionists impose unrealistic standards on other people. 
  • Socially prescribed perfectionists feel the pressure to be perfect, but it's not self-imposed. Instead, they think that others expect them to be perfect, and they behave accordingly.
Just two weeks ago, I shared these with my students, encouraging them to focus not on perfectionism, but instead on conscientiousness. Once again, I'm lousy at taking my own advice, something I commiserated over with a barista-friend at Starbucks earlier this week.

But I digress. Which, in this case, is actually the point.

It's time to digress. To get off this path. To recognize that posting on Wednesday is posting on Wednesday, whether it's midnight or 11:59 PM. To realize that most of you don't care when I post, and to let those of you who do care know that life happens and I'm doing my best.

To admit...that I'm...not...perfect.

Yeah, I knew that already, and you probably did, too. So it's time to walk the walk.

Photo: Taliesin via Morguefile
So, here's the deal. I'm giving up both A and C above (the self-oriented and socially prescribed versions of this poison), and I have no intention of taking on B. I plan to show up here every Wednesday, though I can make no promises about what time that might be. I hope you'll still stop by and see what I have to say, perhaps a little later in the day than before, or maybe even later in the week. I'm not ready to give up my posts, and I hope you're not either. 

In any event, thanks for reading. And if you, like me, are plagued with A, B and/or C, maybe think about digressing a little yourself.

I hear it's good for your health.


  1. Email me if you need something (temporarily, I'd hope!) taken off your plate, you perfectionist, you! :)