Perfectionism vs. Personal Development

Not too terribly long ago I found myself sitting down with my supervisor at work, picking through my mile-long to-do list and relaying to her the difficulty I was having in getting everything done in good time and in a way that made everyone happy. After helping me delegate some tasks away from myself and listening to me describe my struggles, she had me pause and asked a question that I have been asking myself since:

“Do you think you could be ok with not being perfect?”

I froze in place for a moment, mouth slightly agape, stuttering for a response to a question that I perceived to have come so far out of left field that I simply did not know how to deal with it. At the time I hadn't recognized the extent of my perfectionist tendencies, and coming to the realization that I was imposing impossible standards on myself (both at work and at home) was painful.

Pushing myself to do and be better in all aspects of my life has helped me become a healthier, smarter, and more successful person, and a hearty dose of high expectations has been pivotal in reaching my goals. My problem lies in a tendency to cross the fine line into perfectionism, which causes me to doubt myself and handle losses and slip-ups with less grace than I should. Whether I like it or not, trial and error is a part of growing as a person and as a professional, and sometimes I will make mistakes. Learning from those mistakes rather than beating myself up over them is immensely important and poses a very real struggle for me.

A few weeks ago I began attending my second class of the term, this time on campus. I also received a promotion at work, something I have been striving for but did not expect to happen so soon. I am excited and nervous to dive into my new position, but I’m also beginning to see that I will need to be much more forgiving of myself if I want to make this work. The concept of “perfect” is a myth, so expecting myself to be both the perfect student and the perfect employee is ludicrous.

How, then, do I give myself a little bit of space for imperfection while still doing my best in both areas? Where do I draw the line between letting myself off the hook and becoming too lax? I'm not really sure, but I guess it's about time I found out.