Okay, I’m going to say it: I’m a perfectionist.
I can find ways to improve any situation. I strive for optimum efficiency at all times. I can’t rest until I feel like things are “right.”
This realization about myself isn’t new. In fact, I’ve been working on being less of a perfectionist for years.
In PR, I think there’s very much an expectation – whether from ourselves and/or others – to be perfect.
As PR pros, we are always on our best behavior, often acting as mediators, advocates and peacemakers. Because our work is so highly visible, we must be detail-oriented and precise, lest we risk publicly embarrassing ourselves and our employer. And we feel a strong responsibility to perform well for our organizations and clients, who rely on us to position them in the best light.
But what is perfect?
Perfect is subjective. One person’s perfect can be another person’s meh. Which makes perfect impossible to achieve. It doesn’t actually exist. And I think striving to be perfect is making people-pleasing, high-performing PR pros more stressed and overworked than they need to be.
Am I advocating for PR people to phone it in, let it all hang out, and otherwise detach from caring about their work? Not at all.
What I am advocating for is that we perfectionist PR people treat ourselves with a little more kindness, compassion and openness to the idea that, in many instances, “good enough” might actually be just as effective as whatever we’ve defined as “perfect.”
I think it can be a delicate line to distinguish, let alone walk. The way that I’ve come to see it over the years is by focusing on the final outcome. If I could give something A+ effort and stress myself out to no end, or I could give it a B+ effort with ease – and obtain the same result – why not take the path of least resistance?
Similarly, let’s not beat ourselves up when we make mistakes. I can’t count how much sleep I lost as a younger PR pro, agonizing over every little thing I should have said or done differently at work in my fool’s quest to be perfect. You can’t change the past. Mistakes happen. Take the lesson and leave the judgement.
I’m glad to say that I’ve made progress in the sense that, outwardly, I can let things go a little bit more than I used to. I’m better at saying “this is good enough.” But, to be honest, I still struggle with an internal unease and guilt when I do that. Which means my perfectionistic tendencies – and inner critic – are still very much there.
It will always be a work in progress – because there is no perfect.
If you’d like to share any of your experiences striving for perfect, or have tips for those of us who do, please share in the comments below!