For Crying Out Loud, Just Do Something!

One of the most popular interview questions is “What is your biggest weakness.” I always ask this question, because it can be very telling. Some people have obviously planned answers (“I work too hard!”). Others tell you something completely irrelevant to the job (“I’m a terrible athlete!”). The best answers are those that tell you that the candidate is self-aware and motivated to improve (“I’m very factual and serious, so I have to be careful in certain situations not to come across as overbearing.”).

I have a lot of experience hiring people. I’ve heard a lot of weaknesses. Some I can identify with, and some not. But recently, I had a candidate tell me that his greatest weakness was perfectionism. I can relate all too well. Perfectionism may not sound like a weakness, but if not managed, it can be incredibly detrimental to progress.

And I’m all about progress.

Perfectionism is paralyzing. Perfectionism causes me to say things like:

  • I want to go through all the baby clothes and look for stains before boxing them up, so I’ll just leave them here in a pile.
  • I need to figure out the perfect arrangement of these photos before hanging them on the wall, so I’ll just lean them here in this corner.
  • I’m not sure if this paint color matches the comforter exactly so I’ll just leave the walls beige.
  • I don’t have time to wash all the dishes, so I’ll just leave them.
  • I don’t have time to do the entire workout routine, so I’ll take another rest day.
  • I don’t have time to cook a complete meal, so we’ll get take-out.
  • I’m never going to have my 20-year-old body again, so I may as well eat more cookies.

You see, when you expect to do things perfectly, it often feels like the better choice is to do nothing at all. Inaction feels better than imperfect action.

Perfectionism is paralyzing.

But like any weakness, it can be managed with planning, determination, and most importantly, self-awareness. When perfectionism rears its ugly head, I call upon my mantra:

For crying out loud, just do SOMETHING!

Something. Anything. Just not nothing.

Lately, perfectionism has been holding me down. So, I decided to kick its arse.

(The perfectionist in me does not want to publish this post without drawing a sketch of me kicking perfectionism’s arse. However, it’s late and I need to go to bed, so I must publish an imperfect post. Take that, perfectionism!)

Like many things in this life, you can’t fix perfectionism in one day. You can’t undo things faster than it took to do them. But if you just do SOMETHING, you’ll be that much closer. And it’s progress.

Here’s a couple of things I’ve done lately to conquer my perfectionism:

  • Hired a nutrition/fitness consultant to help me make necessary changes
  • Purchased inserts for my Franklin Covey planner. It’s been three years since I used it!
  • Did Level 1 yesterday and Level 2 today of Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred

It feels great to do something.

I’ll be crossing another thing off my list tomorrow night. Stay tuned for installment #3 of “Don’t Be Cruel“.


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25 Responses to For Crying Out Loud, Just Do Something!

  1. Great post!! You are so right – sometimes we are held back by our desire to do something perfectly so we end up doing nothing at all. I’ve never really stopped to think about it like you explained, but it makes perfect sense. Good for you for ninja-kicking perfectionism this week! Sounds like you’re on a roll. Go Merf!!

  2. Such a good post and so true!!! I’ve always kinda wanted to use that Or the similar “I’m too hard on myself” as my weakness in interviews but my mom said it sounded too negative… Thoughts? 😉

  3. GAAH, this is speaking to me so much right now!! I am actually very busy right now, enjoying summer. I am also working on my big list of To Dos, that have been overwhelming me because some are so daunting I don’t know where to start… so I’m just DOING them. just STARTING. 😀

    great job to you – yay for progress! XO

  4. Sarah says:

    Oh, I so relate to this. It took me years to realise that perfectionism was even a problem for me. After all, how could I be a perfectionist when my life was falling apart and nothing got done. It is paralysing and something I still spy in my behaviour sometimes. Alright, sometimes means lots of times!
    Planning, determination and self awareness can fix anything:)

  5. I can SOOOOO relate! I get so caught up in things working out perfectly that I will just shut down when I feel overwhelmed and like I can’t do it “right” (aka perfect).

  6. lindsay says:

    perfectionism definitely holds us back and makes us STUBBORN! well, at least it does for me. So I can relate and I am excited to see the next step for you……hehe.

  7. oh my, this is totally the story of my life! i wrote a post about perfectionism being a hindrance a while back. it’s hard to even start a project when you’re worried you won’t be able to do it perfectly or finish it in a timely manner. of course, that’s why i’m still holding on to an article draft that i need to revise about 3 months later. ugh.

  8. becca says:

    GREAT POST! I did the same thing for years… I’d get so overwhelmed at even starting something big that I wanted to be perfect that I just pushed it aside and wait… wait… and WAITED.

  9. I think I’m the opposite of a perfectionist! hahaha I hardly notice when something is off. I think I’m only a perfectionist when it comes to my cooking. If it doesn’t come out EXACTLY the way I want it all hell breaks loose.

  10. Allie says:

    I love this! Perfectionism CAN be crippling. I find I’ll do the same thing–just NOT doing because I can’t do it perfectly. Heck, life isn’t about perfect, it’s about bumbling around and figuring things out and if it isn’t juuust right, oh well. Move on to the next thing!

  11. 30 Day Shred is killer. Love Jillian’s DVDs!

  12. Allie says:

    I can def. relate to this post.. I almost fear making things not PERFECT (especially cakes, etc.) it took me so long to get up the courage to make some cakes because I was afraid of using fondant LOL

  13. Jeannie says:

    I can so relate! a lot of the reason I am completely disorganized & feeling overwhelmed right now. I often don’t begin something because the task seems too large to handle at the time. Or, I do tackle something but become so engrossed in the details that it takes me forever to complete & I don’t get anything else done. I see this a lot in my oldest son too. Everything has to be done just right & he will spend hours on something but make little progress. Prioritizing is something I think we need to work on!

  14. LauraJayne says:

    Love this post – and I totally agree with you – expect that if I heard “perfectionism” in an interview as a weakness, I’d push for more explanation – but it is totally my weakness too (not being perfect, but always wanting to be). I’m working on it – and learning to take things one day at a time – but I think I’ll always be a little haunted by my own unrealistic expectations for myself.

  15. Working with perfectionists is almost impossible. Unfortunately life can’t be perfect. It can be pretty darn close, but never there. I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying to do your best, but no reason to beat yourself up if it doesn’t end up perfect.

    Great post!

  16. Ah, this rings to true with me! I am a perfectionist too! I know that I am, so I always try to remind myself when I’m doing something/not doing something because of my perfectionist tendencies! And I totally agree that something is better than nothing! Great post. 🙂

  17. Jill says:

    This is and AWESOME post! It is just what I needed to read! I had heard some where that when it comes to healthy eating we should strive for 80/20 not 100%. I think the 80/20 mentality allows us to have indulgences and not feel like we failed our “diet”. It helps us stay on our path for the long haul. I am coming around slowly to this mentality! This post is PERFECT! *wink wink*

  18. What an awesome post…exactly what I need to tell myself. Most days I have to force myself to think of what I did do – and not of what I didn’t do…even if it’s just sweeping the floor (pathetic, yes? but it’s still something).

    When I get really overwhelmed and tired of working at the computer as well, I try to just get up and even just go through my book stacks to organize on my shelves. Anything.

  19. I am a bit the same way…I tend to be all or nothing with everything I do. I put things off forever, because if I’m going to do it I’m going to do it RIGHT. 🙂

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  21. I’m a total victim of perfectionism. However, I think it’s a double-edged sword and has a good and a bad side – it can get you very far in life, but it can also make you sabotage yourself terribly. It depends on how you handle it. My perfectionism got better during the past year especially, at least in some regards where it wasn’t healthy at all (body image etc), but in work-related things it isn’t too bad. I’m careful to have enough recreation time, though.

  22. Hannah says:

    Oh yes, perfectionism can certainly be paralysing. I struggled with that throughout my schooling – facing the all-encompassing fear that *this* would be the time I finally failed at assessment, by the end of uni I was procrastinating more and more out of a dread of not being the best. It’s rather, what’s the word? STUPID. Harrumph. (That’s ‘stupid’ is just directed at myself, by the by!)

  23. Missy says:

    Wow. So true! Thank you so much for illuminating the stack of things I am putting off until I get the time to do them just right when really? Just do the dang thang.
    O, Em, Gee. I owe you big time.

  24. Panda says:

    Where do you work? It must be interesting talking to so many different people. I know my weakness is not being competitive with others and only worrying about myself. I like working in teams, but I would rather spend more time helping the slow people on my team than competing with them and trying to make myself look better. I really don’t know how to portray that in an interview though because I think it makes me come across as lazy, but I am not lazy at all, I am just not competitive!

  25. I may have to adopt that mantra… I struggle with perfectionism too. And you’re so right about the paralyzing effects it has. I have a lot of piles around my house right now that should be addressed but I haven’t done it yet because I couldn’t do it completely and perfectly and that just makes me feel worse. Thanks for sharing!

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