perfectionism stresses people out

from evy's notebook

I've been reflecting recently on the ways I've become less of a perfectionist recently, and I think a lot of it came from noticing how perfectionism often sabotaged the happiness of me and the people around me. A lot of my perfectionism is motivated by fear -- a fear of failure, a fear of hurting people, and a fear of living an unhappy life. I look to the future and see outcomes I don't like, and use that to motivate myself to work hard towards a future that would be better.

But I've been working on being less motivated by fear. I used to burn out often because I pushed myself even when I was struggling, because I was afraid of what would happen if I stopped. Fear is tiring, though, and it made it hard to access energy and creativity for whatever I was working on. I'd burn out, which led to the things I most feared -- failure (e.g. quitting from exhaustion), hurting people (e.g. pushing people to do "important" things they didn't actually want), and being unhappy (which comes for free with burnout).

The more I've realized how stressful fear-motivated perfectionism can be, and how that stress contributes to situations that are far from perfect, the easier it's been to be flexible. When I'm caring for the happiness of me and the people around me, I consider the future but consider the current moment much more than I used to. Sometimes I decide that it's okay that something might go wrong, because it's worth it to not be stressed about it.

Now it's not always as easy as just deciding something isn't stressful anymore. I might still want something to be a certain way or am scared that something will go wrong, but now I sometimes choose to see those feelings as something I want to work through instead of being motivated to act on those fears. And it's also important to note that I can only do this because the things that are most important to me are also important to the people around me. The things that would feel really bad in the future are things that I attend to alongside my friends, housemates, and coworkers. I'm lucky enough to have been able to change my environment several times to have a day-to-day life where this is the case, and I'm so glad to have gotten here.

I think I used to think about perfectionism as a binary -- people either live in the moment and act on impulses, or they keep their future in mind and prepare for it carefully. And while I still sometimes really enjoy the feeling of doing something well, I work less carefully than I used to. I still am very thoughtful about the future and failure and the happiness of me and the people around me -- but I've realized how much perfectionism can stress people out and I've gotten better at taking that into account.