"Perfectionism" signifies striving for flawlessness, a seemingly noble and brave endeavor. Who will deny, for instance, the implicit value of scientific breakthroughs, feats of Olympic champions, and masterpieces of engineering, architecture, the arts and literature, all achieved by perfectionists? But if you are not innately endowed with gifts and talents as the greats, "perfectionism" can become "striving for an elusive goal," an obsessive-compulsive disorder, some have argued. Not necessarily, notes others. While there are so-called “neurotic perfectionists” who go to extremes, there are also individuals who have learned to view their mistakes not as imperfections but as incentives to work harder. The question then is how to effectively manage perfectionism so that it can be a blessing and not a curse.
Here are some pointers, drawn from discussions with successful artists and celebrities:
1. The pursuit of excellence or perfection can be onerous or fulfilling depending on how you channel the energy.
2. The idea is to keep the "eye on the ball," stay focused, resolute, and work hard, regardless of what the end result is going to be. At the very least, you will have progressed even if it is not to where you want to be. Achieving a small portion of a cherished goal through hard work and perseverance is better than abandoning the ideal.
3. Unrelenting self-criticism, common among perfectionist, is a foible that can be recharged into a positive; look at the intensity of your struggle and your self-development as getting closer and closer to your ideal.
4. Enjoy the process. Let the activity, not just the end result for which you are aiming, be the reward.
5. When the process becomes painful or unpleasant, try even harder. You will enjoy the fruits of your labor even more when you put your best effort into it. It can be an ecstatic struggle just moving beyond previous limits to new levels.
6. When you find yourself obsessing over what you are not, try to remember where you were and how far you have come. Don't let negativity constrain your progress.
7. As a perfectionist, you are distinct in that you have traits that are laudable. Perfectionists tend to be organized, self-disciplined, conscientious, and exacting.
8. Finally, perfectionism can become a catalyst for self-actualization. As Martha Stewart said to Oprah Winfrey, "I'm a maniacal perfectionist. And if I weren't, I wouldn't have this company. It's the best rap!" Understanding one's personal power sure beats feelings of dependency and helplessness.