I have always existed in a constant state of motion.
When I'm not physically flying, driving, walking briskly, and barely sleeping for the traveling portion of my job, I'm rising at the crack of dawn to hammer out a couple of hours of work before my day job. I always try to make productive use of my lunch breaks, and attempt to get a few things done in my free evenings after dinner. I sleep with my cell phone mere inches from my face, waking up a few times throughout the night, incessantly checking email and social media.
Most of the time, I'm just barely able to balance my lifestyle. But sometimes I get run down and hit a rough patch, either physically or mentally. I detailed some of my troubles in Flying Solo and Thriving with Mental Illness.
Through a combination of therapy, education, and a profound self-awareness, I've learned that my obsessive tendencies are a classic case of self-directed perfectionism. While making my way through life with a high amount of energy, meticulous attention to detail, and perseverance can sometimes be beneficial, there are negative aspects of this personality type that can be quite damaging.
A recent Psychology Today article, The Curse of Perfectionism points out:
“Psychologists see trait perfectionism almost always as a handicap. They see perfectionists as vulnerable to distress, often haunted by a chronic sense of failure, indecisiveness and its close companion procrastination, and also shame…
Most perfectionists struggle with depression, pessimism, and low self-belief. They can easily become immobilized and without motivation. But when they are at it perfectionists are marked by their compulsivity, obssessionality, and rigidity.”
In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron describes perfectionisms affect on creativity:
“Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop — an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole.”
Sound familiar? A self-directed perfectionist is hard on themselves for making mistakes and has a tendency to view these transgressions dichotomously. A partial success just doesn't exist. This type of thinking may creep into many areas of our lives, especially financially.
Five Ways Perfectionism May Be Hurting You Financially
Many perfectionists tend to suffer from procrastination. With investing, it's very easy to develop the attitude that you shouldn't begin until you've acquired a certain base level of knowledge, but how much knowledge is enough? Don't wait; just get started.
2. Hyper-criticism of mistakes and guilt
Have you made some downright shameful money mistakes? Who hasn't? I once purchased a bunch of shares of a stock at the advice of a professional comedian. Seriously. Try to avoid the spiraling feelings of guilt and hyper-criticism over mistakes and just move on.
3. Unrealistic expectations
Are you seriously expecting to cut your budget by half in a single month? That's probably not realistic. So what if x number of bloggers are already living off half of their net income? You need to set goals that are achievable and livable. You don't always have to take the “go big or go home” approach.
4. Obsession with the acceptance of others
Are you concerned with keeping up appearances? Are you trying to maintain an unsustainable lifestyle to impress your friends? This behavior can lead to further feelings of inadequacy and debt.
5. Stifling creativity
One of my favorite books on writing is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. She warns:
“Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here — and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.”
Try to tame your perfectionist tendencies. Your great idea was born from your passion. Give it a fighting chance to live. Your perfectionism could be standing in the way of executing your next lucrative plan.
Are you a perfectionist? Check out Psychology Today's Perfectionism Test.
Present Perfect by Pavel Somov, PhD
When Perfect Isn't Good Enough by Martin Antony PhD & Richard Swinson MD FRCPC FRCP
Note: I am not being compensated for any of the Amazon URLs in this post.
Readers: Are you a perfectionist? How does it hurt you financially?