I only realised I was a perfectionist fairly recently, because I don’t — I swear to god — think I have to do everything perfectly. I just want it to be good enough that I don’t lose my job or get in trouble or have someone be mad at me.
The issue was that I thought “good enough” meant “no mistakes” — I mean, if something has a mistake then you haven’t finished doing your job, right? And you can’t hand in half-finished work.
From the outside, a perfectionist is obsessing about the tiniest detail that doesn’t matter, but from the inside, the perfectionist is trying to fix a huge glaring flaw. They’re just trying to do the bare minimum, and it’s killing them — because their conception of “the minimum” is badly skewed.
(This tends to be worse for neurodiverse people because they think all deadlines are hard deadlines. They don’t realise that neurotypical people quite often give deadlines that they fully expect will be delayed. But which ones are hard deadlines and which ones can you push back on? Hahaha I have no idea, tell me if you find out.)
It’s something to watch out for when you read checklists of psychological symptoms. A lot of the checklists were created for psychologists, not for patients, so they describe what it’s like to look at someone with that condition, not what it feels like to be one.
This piece was originally published in The Whippet #120 – subscribe to get the next issue in your inbox!
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