Friday, February 18, 2011

Perfectionistic Thinking

Is perfectionism a good thing? 
You know how during an employment interview there is usually a question about what you consider your most negative characteristic?  The interviewer does not really expect you to tell him/her that you have a problem with tardiness, or that you couldn’t find your way out of a paper bag. I think, perhaps, it may be their way of seeing how well you think on your feet.
The first time I encountered this question during an interview, I became flustered and a little unnerved.  After a few seconds (which seemed like an eternity) I muttered something about being “detail oriented.”   Since that interview, I have polished my answer to this question.  I still answer that I am a detail oriented type of person, but I embellish it with examples that show this trait in a positive light. 

An honest evaluation of this question, and one which I will never reveal in a job interview, brings me to the answer that I am a *gasp* perfectionist.  You may be thinking, “That’s not so bad, perfectionism is a good thing, isn't it?”
I agree that some people’s work could use a little polishing (like that hand-made scarf that starts out wide at one end and is four inches narrower at the other, but is ‘good enough’ in the maker’s eyes).  I, for one, am tired of accepting slip-shod service and/or craftsmanship from people in service or retail establishments, which passes as acceptable by many standards. There are many times I think a little “perfectionism thinking” is in order.
However, and here comes the big BUT, what I’m talking about is when perfectionism becomes a negative force.  Yes, I said negative. 

You may ask, “When is wanting to be perfect a bad thing?”   
My answer:  When it hinders progress, or stops you from moving forward entirely! Let me explain by some examples in my life. 

My Perfectionist Ways Were Causing Me Stress
A friend helped me to see that I have been putting an extreme amount of (unnecessary) pressure and stress on myself by trying to be all things to all people as far as my crafting blog goes.  She helped me to appreciate my own unique style, and how that is what is attracting people to my craft blog, Paper Arts Cafe . By trying to accommodate everyone’s requests, I am going against what comes naturally, and adding stress to my life.  Yes, I will occasionally try something different (often as a challenge to myself so I don’t get stale in my own style), but I will mostly be true to my style, to myself.  That is, after all, where my gift lies (and I say that with absolutely no haughtiness or self-importance.  I say it with respect to God, the One who gave me my talents.

Perfectionistic Tendencies Can Stop Creativity
Another negative symptom of perfectionistic expectations is that it often stops my creative process.  Let me explain.  When I started this blog, for example, I had so many ideas and thoughts I wanted to write about.  Then, as I sat and wrote, my own feelings of inadequacy made me start over and over, until writing became a chore to endure, rather than the pleasant, uplifting experience it has always been for me.  I was trying too hard to make everything I write “fit in” with what I had idealized this blog to be, in my mind.
As I prayed about this, I began to see that the One who leads me to write, the One who supplies the creative power, THE ONE who is my whole reason for writing, simply instructed me to write.  No parameters, no carefully confined guidelines or outlines to follow, just write!  So, that is what I am doing.  And, oh, how freeing that is! I simply sit down at the keyboard, and find, if I take a few moments to get myself out of my way, the thoughts and ideas do come.  And if they don’t always “fit” with my own ideas of where this blog thing is going, then so be it.  It is, after all, for His glory.

Finally, perfectionism can also lead to procrastination,  And that is a topic for another post.  For now, I will work on writing more often, and when inspired.
So, bear with me, please.  I am a work in progress.  I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up yet.  God is working on me, and I am trying my best to stay out of His way.



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