Perfectionism is an ailment I know all too well. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t put undue pressure on myself in every area of my life. As I’ve grown, I started to see perfectionism for what it really is…fear.
The fear of being imperfect. The fear of not being good enough.
That’s why it was so important to me to address fear head-on in the first lesson of Define Your Style Lab—my course about finding your decorating style. I cover five common fears that make decorating difficult and how to overcome them.
I spend a lot of time on perfectionism because it’s the trickiest one to overcome and the most deeply personal. I’ve also noticed that although the other four fears are common they aren’t universal. But almost everyone identifies with the fear of being imperfect or not good enough.
Today I want to share with you my six super simple strategies for getting decorating done when you’re a perfectionist.
Since I started using these strategies, I now consider myself a recovering perfectionist.
When I was asked the popular job interview question, “Name your three strengths,” I used to proudly claim to be a perfectionist. But since my wedding, becoming a homeowner, and having kids (generally being an adult), I am learning that’s actually one of my greatest weaknesses.
Six signs you might be a perfectionist too:
- You never call a project done because you might find something to improve.
- You can always think of just one more thing you need to do to make it perfect.
- You don’t even want to start a project that you can’t finish perfectly because imperfect results are unacceptable.
- You spend too much time perfecting unimportant things and dwelling on inconsequential details.
- You apply the same level of perfection to all things. You have a compulsion to do everything equally well.
- You constantly feel judged. You believe everyone around you can see your errors or mistakes.
Unfortunately, you can’t just decide one day to not be a perfectionist. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a trait (or curse) you will always live with.
But you should know it’s a fool’s errand. Like Salvador Dali said,
“Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.”
What you can do is tame your perfectionist tendencies.
Although being a mother is trying for me as a perfectionist, it’s also one of the things that helps me the most. I see how proud my children are of their imperfect scribbles, how happy they are to sing out of tune, and how they just keep trying. They are truly living.
Life isn’t about being perfect; it’s about trying your best.
Here are the six strategies I use to control my perfectionist side when it comes to decorating and home projects:
1. Decide What is Good Enough
Before starting a project, I decide what is good enough. Then I know when the project is done. I make a commitment to myself to stop at that point, even if it’s not perfect.
2. Stop Looking for Flaws
I stopped looking for flaws. As a perfectionist, one of my natural tendencies is to give something the once-over when it’s “done” to look for any flaws that need to be fixed. My once-over usually involves microscopic precision. Now, I limit myself to a glance. No one else is going to get out the magnifying glass to look for errors, so why should I?
3. Accept When You Might Need Help to Meet Your Own Expectations
I’ve come to accept my desire for perfection on certain things. If I know I won’t be able to achieve the result I want, then I seek help or don’t do the project. When I made slipcovers for my dining room chairs, I was confident enough in my skills to get a good enough result. When it came to reupholstering the sectional in my family room, I decided I better save up for professional help. Knowing myself and my skills, I knew I wouldn’t be able to meet my own expectations on that project.
4. Always Set a Deadline
As a perfectionist, I never get anything done without a deadline. Perfectionism’s evil twin is procrastination. Given unlimited time a perfectionist will either put off starting a project indefinitely or use the extra time to obsess over every detail and continue to delay finishing. The easiest way to get a project started and keep yourself from obsessing over small things that don’t move the project forward is to choose a deadline. When you’re up against the clock, it’s easier to focus on the big picture.
5. Accept that You Can’t Be Great at Everything
I am learning to accept that I can’t be great at everything. As the saying goes, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” I’ve learned to pick my battles. There are times I am uncompromising and others where I let the little things slide. The great distinction for me is the permanency of what I am working on. When I paint walls I want a great finish that will look good and last. If I’m wiping down the kitchen counters or arranging decor—things I will have to do again tomorrow or want to switch up often—it’s okay if I miss a few crumbs or don’t get the perfect arrangement.
6. Realize You are Your Harshest Critic
I’ve also started to recognize everyone else isn’t a perfectionist. And even perfectionists are usually more consumed with their own perfectionism than someone else’s. So it follows that most people will never notice the flaws that you see in your work. You are your own harshest critic. This realization changed the way I ask my husband for his opinion. Instead of asking, “Do you think I should change this?” as I point out a specific flaw I am concerned with, I simply ask, “How does this look?” If he doesn’t mention or notice the flaw, then my work is done—good enough.
The pursuit of perfection can be a strength if you know where perfection is important and where it is not.
Do you struggle with perfectionism?
Are you worried you might make the wrong choice so you do nothing?
Or maybe you’re worried about what other people will think about your decorating choices?
I’d love to help you work through those fears in Define Your Style Lab. The other style students are coming up with great commitments to overcome their fears and move forward in their homes. Although decorating fears are personal, it’s really helpful to see other people share their fears and share ideas to overcome them. You’ll realize you’re not alone.
And that’s just what we tackle in the first lesson. By the end of Define Your Style Lab, you’ll have a personalized decorating strategy to bring out your true style in your home. You can also read more about how to find your true decorating style here.