Hi, my name is Annatjie, and I am a recovered Perfectionist.
People with perfectionism hold themselves to impossibly high standards. They think that what they do is never good enough. Ultimately, perfectionism can make you feel unhappy with your life. It can lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm. Eventually, it can also lead you to stop trying to succeed. Even mild cases can interfere with your quality of life, affecting your personal relationships, education or work.
After at least three burnouts in my working career, I know that it was my drive to be perfect and the view that “if you do it, do it perfectly” which drove me to regular migraines, kidney infections and glandular fevers.
When being in control gets out of control
Sadly, it wasn’t just my body that paid a toll, but also my relationships and the effect my behaviour had on other people’s lives.
If you are part of a team you know you are not alone and do not have to carry all of the burden by yourself. Despite this, I often felt I couldn’t trust anyone else enough to execute my delegation or adhere to my self-imposed high standards – something which I now realise is because real perfectionism isn’t about “having high standards.” It’s about control. Trying to have an impossible, irrational level of control over a world that is basically uncontrollable.
During this time my self-talk was “I can do it well and quickly and will not burden a team member with it”.
Yet, as leaders this is not the way to develop our team members as the more we do, the less time we have to delegate, mentor, think strategically and connect with our team members with an open mind and a relaxed, approachable expression.
I had to learn the hard way that no matter how much I plan, things happen as they will, and I have had to make peace with “enough planning” and move on to live the plan with the skills, knowledge and experience I have at the time.
In time, soft eyes will be part of this picture, where people really feel listened to. They will treasure the time they can spend with you as their leader and not avoid it due to the stress they see in you, hear in your voice and experience whilst talking to you.
Stop. Breathe. Think. Trust.
With the new year well on its way, you are probably back into your routine, filling up your year planner and listing the strategic and private goals you want to focus on. However, if you feel that you have a tendency towards perfectionism, then you may find yourself getting stuck on the control treadmill by adding hours to your schedule – sleeping less and doing more of the same things over and over.
As hard as the best-intentioned, most conscientious person might try, it is impossible to control every aspect of one’s existence; we are vulnerable.
If you can change the above behaviours you’ll be able to lighten your load, while having the time to think about how to improve the situation. Thinking time will enable you, as leader, to have an open mind to start seeing the bigger picture which, in turn will help your team(s) to focus on what really matters and thereby make the biggest difference.
In 2020, stop struggling under the weight of your own inner rulebook
Most perfectionists also experience burnout – feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted to such an extent that they don’t want to continue.
But what can you do about this?
Here are two eye openers I received which started replenishing my energy and living a better life.
1. The first eyeopener for me was this message:
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; and of all the seeds it is the smallest, but when it has grown it is the largest of the garden herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air find shelter in its branches.””— Matthew 13:31–32 (AMP)
The message I received is that our faith is like a mustard seed. Our faith does need to be cultivated however with our Father on our side great things can be accomplished. Control and stress are the very opposite of faith and they will not attract fellow team members to our way of thinking.
Our responsibility as Servant Leaders is to create a safe place for people to learn and grow. We as leaders must also develop and grow and focus on being firmly rooted so that others can find assistance through our example, mentorship, leadership and changed behaviour and words.
We need to be:
- Servant Leaders who become established while changing atmospheres in teams and organisations;
- Leaders who stand for what is right and speak up with strong and independent voices;
- Leaders who know we have to look after ourselves to enable us to be energised to carry on with the work we have started;
- Leaders who know that stature does not limit influence – faith can move mountains and with the correct influence and motivation, we as leaders, can change our environments. No matter how tough the market conditions, the political situation and social concerns, our faith should stay the same and stay focused on God and His will, and trust that He will guide our actions; and
- Leaders who know that over-controlling is no longer needed; we have been given talents that we must use where we are, and our lives will be changed in the process when we focus on developing people and not controlling them.
Knowing the above will only be possible if we accept ourselves with all the talents we have been given. Being fully ourselves is what makes the difference in the difficult situations of our lives. If we are not over-tired, we can show up fully and be the people God has made to serve in His Kingdom as Servant Leaders.
2. The second eye opener I had during my planning of 2020 is:
Matthew 5:14-15 (AMP)
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.”
God puts us on a stand to shine; we are asked to be generous with our lives and open up to others and be the light. The three words and behaviours I have received for 2020 are: Faith, Hope and Joy through shining my light.
My challenge to you
- Be fully you and use all your talents;
- Cut the “doing” trap while chasing Perfection and replace it with Being Yourself and an example to others;
- Be soft, so you can be used through Servant Leadership behaviour; and
- Let your light shine where-ever your journey takes you in 2020.