Life,  Rediscover Series

Redefining the Perfectionism

After graduating from law school, as I was preparing for job interviews, my career adviser Bonny gave me some sample questions a typical interviewer would ask. To my serious surprise, one of the questions was what I consider my negative quality. Once I got over why someone would ask a question like that, I started pondering what my answer could possibly be. It’s not that I could easily be honest about it! So eventually, I came up with a clever idea to say that I am a perfectionist, but that I am pretty good at controlling how much time I can sit on each assignment.

Looking back, I see that I actually knew back then, being a perfectionist was not necessarily a good quality…unless work is done perfectly within an appropriate timeframe. I didn’t stop there. I demanded nothing short of perfection from myself in everything else I did: relationship, parenting, cooking, baking, entertaining, and so on.

But then, I began to realize how there is a collateral damage of perfectionism — the loss of joy…

I do think many women suffer from perfectionism. To be honest, many of us were encouraged to be perfectionists because of society. As a kid, I watched my mom washing her bed whites and ironing my dad’s shirts to perfection. She taught me how to do all these tasks as I was curious to know. Then there are idols. Just think of Martha Stewart, the domestic Goddess. I tried to cook, bake, and entertain like her, especially, during holiday season! The food, the decor, the gifts, and the entertainment!

As the responsibility started piling up, especially once I hit my 30s, perfectionism became more of an obstacle. It not only prevented me from enjoying my time, but more importantly, it was feeding the problem within. If you really think about it, perfectionism is a desire to be flawless. If I don’t do everything perfectly, then I have flaws… and to be honest, no matter how much effort I put in something, nothing EVER comes out flawless.

Does perfectionism and the desire to be flawless come down to pleasing others or being hard on yourself? Or both?

At this point in my life, as I am rebuilding from the inside out, it is important to be content with being imperfect. Everyone is imperfect, and this doesn’t bother me a bit. I love people around me no less, and I know they love me too.

Having said that, I do not advocate to abandon the perfectionism in its entirety. It is important to have a purpose and a goal to strive for… as long as it is something you love. Everything else, shouldn’t require nearly as much of your energy.

This year, as the holidays are approaching, I am looking forward to taking things slow, enjoying everything I do while trying not to put pressure on myself to make all things perfect. I will be flexible and open minded, do five things instead of ten, all with joy. Truly, the only parts we remember from the holidays, aren’t going to be the gifts we gave or got, what meals we ate, or how many cakes we baked. We remember how we felt. So let’s make this year out to be a warm and cozy feeling.