I first met Michael in one of my old work places in London where we bonded over a shared love of pool, snooker and curry. We’ve stayed in touch despite me moving to the other side of the world and I have enjoyed the many deep level conversations we’ve had since.
Although this interview is short it shows the reoccurrence of procrastination, which has been a surprisingly common part of perfectionists stories. Alongside that I personally can relate to the lack of self esteem that Michael talks about. It is a strange thing for many people on the outside looking in, because to others it can seem that perfectionists achieve so much. But when driven by negative feelings, perfectionism is a highly toxic trait to possess and does very little to improve self esteem or happiness levels.
1. What area/areas of your life do you experience perfectionism in? Mostly at work, but also in health and body image. Not so much in relationships. Any competitive endeavour or things relating to self-esteem, for sure.
2. How does perfectionism present itself in these areas? Being always unsatisfied. Feeling that I have not done enough. That it isn't good enough if I don't reach the next goal I have achieved for myself. That there's no point completing anything if it is not perfect. Feeling that it's not ready yet until every wrinkle is ironed out.
3. How has perfectionism impacted these areas of your life?
Far less progress obtained than what is possible, through analysis paralysis. Much less happy mentally through never being satisfied and having this affect self esteem.
4. Where do you think your perfectionism comes from?
I’d probably need to use therapy to fully explore this, but I would say it’s a combination of fear and lack of self esteem that drives me to perfectionism. These come from my experience as a younger man when I feel I didn’t receive the positive reinforcement, encouragement and support that I needed. There was a lack of guidance and constructive discipline there too.
5. What have you tried to manage your perfectionism?
Working on mental mantras such as "done is better than perfect" but also in being more disciplined so as to actually reach the standards I have set for myself.
6. If there are positives and negatives to perfectionism what would you say they are?
One key positive is that it drives me to achieve far more and hold myself to much higher standards than otherwise. When leveraged for positive effect it can be used to break through plateaus and develop better mental discipline.
On the negative side it can be very self destructive
7. You are a parent to two young children. Have you found this has affected you perfectionism at all?
With our first child it certainly helped to reduce my feelings of anxiety, as I had a small human to keep alive! In addition I have noticed myself applying my own perfect standards to my toddler. I’ve seen how ridiculous it is when you have these lofty expectations of a three year old, it’s really dumb and unrealistic. As a result I have changed my approach with my children and perhaps in time that may well change how I proceed with my own perfectionism.
Thanks for taking the the time to read about another perfectionist. If you'd like to be a part of this series feel free to drop me a line below.
You can also read more stories in 2021's book Perfectionism: living with perfectionism below: