The Benefits of Being a (Recovering) Perfectionist

A few weeks ago, as I was spending some quality time with one of my best friends, she asked me where...

The Benefits of Being a (Recovering) Perfectionist

A few weeks ago, as I was spending some quality time with one of my best friends, she asked me where I found the courage to chase all the big dreams that I’m chasing, to built businesses as I’ve done, to relocate to a foreign country without speaking the language or having spent some time there, to travel the world, and to reinvent myself through an entirely new coaching business and career.

Her question intrigued me, and got me thinking. Where does this undeniable ambition to achieve things come from? I couldn’t give her an answer right away. As far as I know, I’ve always been this way. For as long as I can remember I wanted to do things, and never questioned the consequences, or risks involved, or even if it was going to work.

The more I thought about it, the more a connection emerged between this unrestrained ambition, and my perfectionistic tendencies.

Perfectionism can be good or bad

Today I call myself a recovering perfectionist, for I’ve spent many years working on overcoming the need to be perfect all the time, and learning to accept mistakes, flaws, and criticism.

For a big part of my life this perfectionist trait did me more harm than good. I often felt out of place, as if I didn’t belong. I couldn’t handle criticism at all, not even the constructive kind. I felt I had to live up to expectations, and take care of everyone around me. Whatever I achieved, I never really enjoyed it, always focusing on the next thing to prove myself instead of celebrating my accomplishments. The worst part of it was how I always ended up judging myself. Even when I had accomplished something huge, I was never good enough, pretty enough, smart enough… to be proud of myself.

My accomplishments always felt more like streaks of luck than successful endeavors, and I never, never gave myself a shoulder tap for them.

Imperfect but still ambitious

Today I live a very different life. I’m OK with not being perfect, with not getting it right all the time. I love myself, my life, my work. Every accomplishment – big or small – is worth a celebration, a pause, a time off. I nurture myself, and find joy and strength in taking care of all aspects of my existence. And yes, my ambition definitely changed as well. But not in it’s intensity!

My boundless enthusiasm to go after my goals, and dreams is almost entirely intact. In fact I’m probably more passionate than ever before to achieve what I set out to do.

I believe this is one of the benefits of being a (recovering) perfectionist. It’s silver lining. Science suggests that not only nurture but also nature play a role in perfectionism. A so-called “perfectionist gene” could be passed down in families who have the trait. Environmental factors would then have a big influence on how the gene manifests in people, and whether it’s working for the person or against her.

The benefits of being a perfectionist

In my case it clearly worked against me. It turned me into an anxious, worrying overachieving go-getting woman, chasing everyone’s dreams except her own without ever being satisfied. By recognizing the state I was in, and by working my way through it for the past seven years, I’ve come out on what I would call the other end of the perfectionist spectrum.

Now the trait no longer works against me (at least not very often), or makes me miserable; instead it works in my favor, and gives me the will to passionately pursue my dreams. There are many more benefits of being a perfectionist. Such as:

  • A great eye for details,
  • Organizational skills to die for,
  • The determination of a hungry Labrador,
  • A better than average quality of work,
  • An almost unlimited interest for learning,
  • And so much more!

So yes I have a lot to thank my perfectionist trait for.

And one of those things is the “courage” my friend talked about that allows me to pursue my dreams, and goals relentlessly.

Get to know your personality traits

I believe the trick with our personality traits is to learn all we can about that – that is to learn all we can about us, really – so that we can use them to our advantage. I would often wish I didn’t have all the feelings and emotions that I had because of my perfectionism.

Not anymore. I’m so happy to have these strengths and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. They make me who I am, and always have. The essence of me has remained the same, it’s the expression of me that’s changed. I believe we all have that power. I don’t think we’re passengers on the ship that is our life. Instead we can design it to be whatever it is we want it to be. And all the tools we need to make it a great beautiful life are within us.

I hope this post will inspire you to look at the personality traits that you don’t like about yourself in a different light, and that you’ll feel inspired you to learn more about them so you can transform them into personality assets, rather than personality flaws.

Now it’s your turn. What strengths do you possess that come packaged in challenging personality traits? How did you turn a negative trait into a positive one? Let me know below.

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