You’re in an interview, and the person behind the desk asks you, “What are your weaknesses?” That good ol’ cliche weakness-but-not answer: “I’m a perfectionist.”
I’m here to tell you that perfectionism is a REAL and SERIOUS weakness. Being a perfectionist means that you are NEVER satisfied with your own work, even if it meets all criteria demanded. There’s always something more to be done. Perfectionism delays launch dates. Perfectionism causes other work to not be done. Perfectionism causes anxiety and panic. Perfectionism is a SERIOUS weakness.
I am a recovering perfectionist. I have always leaned into an all-or-nothing approach to my life and my hobbies. This was great in some ways: I have discovered my natural talents and obsessively pored over them to make myself better; I graduated valedictorian from high school (never mind the size of my graduating class); I did well for myself in my career at a very early age. It also caused me to feel suffocated in the middle of a restaurant before I was even 21 years old — that was my first panic attack.
I have run two races in the past week: the Tinker Bell Half Marathon (at Disneyland!) and the Bay Area booze classic, Bay to Breakers. You may recall that exactly 7 weeks ago, I ran the Rock’n’Roll San Francisco half marathon. I haven’t run this many races since I was in high school cross country.
Last weekend before the Tinker Bell half, I was 90% sure I would not run. I was running on only a little sleep, and I had run a total of four times in the preceding six weeks, along with two SoulCycle sessions, which I count as hill repeats. That makes an average of one “run” per week. I started to feel so burdened by this race, and I swore that I would take a break from running. And yet, I woke up at 3:45am the morning of the Tinker Bell half, drank coffee, ate a piece of cold pizza (remember, I was #dgaf about this race) and I ended up running THE ENTIRE THING. To me, this was a huge freakin’ deal. It also made me realize: I was discounting myself.
Perfectionism and impossibly high standards cause anxiety. Undeniable fact for me. The moment I realized that I was going to make it through 13.1 miles without stopping or getting injured, I was energized beyond the endorphins: I experienced a breakthrough. If you’re someone who doubts yourself or feels stuck going uphill, do something HARD and do it at all. Do like Woody Allen said and realize that showing up is [percentage variable depending on source] of the equation.
Our cool dude friend Aaron cheered us on mid-race, just after Hayes Hill. #BayToBreakers
I signed up for Bay to Breakers 12k a couple days before the race took place, which is when I realized I wasn’t even sore from the half marathon. Next on my list: next week’s Color Run in San Jose, where I’m going to run faster than my longer-distance pace. Also: I’m kinda just going for everything in my life as if it’s good enough. Need to send a card to someone? No need for an epic ode. Whatever you write is good enough. Want to get fit? Working out a couple times a week at your own pace is good enough. Somehow, “good enough” became “bad and lazy,” and that’s so wrong. Perfect is the enemy of done. Don’t let some unwritten standards come between you and a task/goal/idea to be executed. Insert some joke here about Nike and JUST DO IT!