K likes to remind me of how I love to be a perfectionist at certain actions. It's a valid accusation towards the infrequent updates to this blog, and it's my biggest stumbling block to happiness. For being a habit that's supposedly good to have, it has a lot of drawbacks.
You see, perfectionism is one of those things that make a person function and idiosyncratic and at the same time make them shut down. If you've never had the experience of meeting someone afflicted with this disease, let me elaborate. A perfectionist is someone who labors to remove all imperfections from a particular action before showing that action to all. In some endeavors, it makes sense; when you solder a circuitboard, perfectionism can make the difference between a circuit acting "glitchy" and a circuit working perfectly. Polish is extremely evident in writing, for it separates the haphazard writing of Palahniuk and Keruoac from the sublime of Pynchon and the terseness of Hemingway (sometimes it takes a lot of effort to say so little). These obvious exertions of effort make a perfectionist good inside when someone else picks up on it and compliments.
However, the woe of the perfectionist is multifaceted. For starters, perfectionists are avid procrastinators; they don't like to start because of the imperfection of the plan of action. They usually use excuses related to this lack of planning, situation, or energy to delay really important tasks (even mundane ones) and this leads to dysfunction or even despondency. Second, a perfectionist usually dreams big, because of earlier successes that promote the idea that more effort at perfecting a task produces unbounded quality. These big dreams fly in the face of a currently reasonable and sensible plan. In addition, usually these high expectations usually lead to internal rejection of an outcome that isn't as ideal as mentally pictured. Because of the relatively high frequency of this happening, this leads to depression, especially when the perfectionist broods over what "could have been". Perfectionists tend to dislike probabilistic concepts such as luck, fate, serendipity, and calamity because not only are these imperfect but they can spoil an otherwise perfect plan. Finally, procrastinators don't like to finish, putting in excessive effort beyond the point of diminishing returns, wasting so much quality time.
From start to finish, perfectionists set themselves up to hate the things they do except in that rare time when everything goes right, which they then obsess about and use it as confirmation bias for their admittedly illogical actions.
How does one break the habit? Simple. Do things you're no good at. It turns out that a perfectionist will truly enjoy activities where they believe that they have no vested interest to polish, compete, or succeed. It's the reason I got into karaoke, and why I still enjoy it to this day: my voice is nowhere near perfect, I don't look to perfect my singing (except I do want to increase my range, so there's more music available that I'll be able to hit the high notes on :D), and usually the involvement of a little grog makes me forget that I'm getting good at it. Recently I won this contest at a local bar which gave me a slot for a bigger competition. The night of that competition was the least enjoyable night of karaoke I've ever had. Why? Because my perfectionist side reminded me how imperfect my singing was, and I wasn't able to get "in the mood", even after a couple beers. After that I resolved never to take any singing event seriously, and I've had a good time at karaoke since.
Such as last night, which was at the same bar as that competition. There was no competition, only good time had by all. We all joined in singing along, and had a blast past midnight. I needed sleep that next morning, and wasn't quite the perfectionist at work, but I was also reminded how much more vibrant life can be when you're not so worried about how you can make life more vibrant.
And with that, I'm gonna go work on perfecting my Halloween costume. Er... or maybe not. :D
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