Monday 20th April, 2020
Well I’ve officially finished the first day of my new Interior Design course. Feeling like an accomplished student already. Funnily enough, my closing thought in this morning’s blog post about taking a different mental approach to studying Interior Design was tested almost immediately on day 1.
One of the first Interior Design course intro classes today was about overcoming perfectionism. It started with a checklist of ’10 ways to tell if you’re a perfectionist’ – and I can annoyingly confirm that I ticked every one of those damn boxes.
- You’re often overly thorough and cautious in your work spending far
longer than is actually needed and excessively checking every last detail – CHECK
- You can find it difficult to work with others because of your exacting
standards and can avoid delegating because you fear they won’t meet
your benchmarks – CHECK
- You can be very self-critical, struggling not to feel defensive when criticised by others – CHECK (I’ll come back to that one later)
Though I’d like to (quite optimistically) believe that I fall into the ‘healthy perfectionism’ bracket, rather than the ‘neurotic perfectionism’ alternative. Here’s why…
A lot of people see perfectionism as a weakness, but to be honest I’ve always embraced it. I think it gives me a better edge professionally and creatively. Even in my everyday life I see it as a pro – my house cleaning is very thorough. If I start a project I always finish it as best as I possibly can. Even when it inevitably takes 3x longer than I thought it would. My home organisation is pretty spot on and my wedding planning was perfected to the last detail.
But there’s no doubt that it also has a big impact on my mental state, especially when it comes to paid creative work. Working in a creative industry can be brutal – receiving feedback is one of my least favourite things in the world. Ironically, giving feedback is one of the best – go figure. Better to know now and grow from it though. Today’s lesson stressed that self awareness is always the first step to managing perfectionist tendencies. And many other tendencies, come to think of it.
The positive of all this is that it’s helped to develop my own managerial style over the years. I’m very aware that most people don’t love getting lots of negative feedback on their work. But equally aware that as a woman in business, I need to not shy away from being assertive and direct to get the results I need.
I’m confident in what I do for a living – I know my stuff and know I’m brilliant at it too. But if I’m completely honest, it does take constant self-checking, re-reading emails and personal pep talks to make sure my communication reflects this. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of unnecessary niceties in fear of sounding ‘bossy’ (ugh who else hates that word?) or too direct.
Taking on some advice
“Perfectionism is the death of a great room”Ann McDonald
So the best advice I took from this presentation about perfectionism was to look at the bigger picture and keep things in perspective. ‘Every tiny detail cannot be perfect so identify or seek clarification on the parts you feel are most important to focus on and prioritise them’.
‘Every tiny detail cannot be perfect so identify or seek clarification on the parts you feel are most important to focus on and prioritise them’.
Funnily enough, since I’ve been dabbling in some gardening over the last 5 weeks of lockdown, this is exactly what I’ve been practicing. I could have looked at the entire garden (which was in a bit of a state after winter) and got completely overwhelmed at how much needed to be done. Instead, I broke it down into small jobs and prioritised them based on what would make the biggest visual impact.
So tidying the grass was number 1. Yes, I got scissors and literally trimmed the edges of the grass to perfection. So maybe that’s a bad example. But it made a huge visual impact so I have no regrets. Weeding the edge of the flower beds was number 2. Did I get all the weeds? Absolutely not – that would take weeks. But weeding just the edges gave an instant face lift and made the garden look tidy and clean.
So, slowly but surely, all the small jobs tallied up and the garden is looking fantastic now – even though it’s still far from ‘finished’. Though now I’m not sure there is such a thing as ‘finished’ when it comes to gardening?!
How to manage perfectionism for the rest of the Interior Design course (and life, really)
So with all this in mind, I’m going to make an active, conscious effort to keep my perfectionist tendencies in the ‘healthy’ bracket, and steer clear of the ‘neurotic’ one. Or else this Interior Design course will drag on for three years+. That means I’m going to…
- Use goals to positively motivate and break projects down into smaller tasks when the entire thing can feel overwhelming
- Focus on taking action, improving as I go (rather than needing to get it 100% perfect first time)
- Celebrate even the small victories (any excuse for a celebratory wine, really)
- Not get caught up in the details (I think this will be the hardest part)
- Learn from my mistakes – any remember it’s OK to make them in the first place!
In the end, I’m studying an entirely new subject so I need to remember to not be hard on myself. That’s the point of studying, right? Learning something from scratch. Embracing being a beginner. Working out how to get better. And perhaps most importantly – enjoying the process.
P.S Find me on Instagram – the one I still haven’t posted to because, well, please read above.