Motivation & Perfectionism

Old, old pastel drawingYesterday was Inspiration & Motivation Monday, but ironically I lacked both the inspiration and the motivation to write a blog post! This post is to make up for that.

So, motivation and perfectionism. Two concepts that aren’t often linked, but one certainly has influence on the other, in my experience. Or actually, I am missing a step. Perfectionism can lead to either frustration or triumph, which leads to an increase or a decrease in motivation. Let me explain with two examples.

As you may have guessed, I am a perfectionist. One perfect portrait in my whole life, graduating cum laude and summa cum laude… I’m not easily satisfied with my own work. So, in past year I taught three series of 3-5 lessons at a primary school for gifted children. Art history, linguistics and literature/creative writing. I hadn’t really done anything like that before, but I thought I could pull it off. Still, I was a bit uncertain so I spent a lot of time preparing my classes.

And then I got very positive feedback. The kids loved my classes and so did the teachers. While I hadn’t been certain before that my classes were ‘good enough’, now I was. The perfectionist inside me rejoiced, feeding both my inspiration and motivation. In a bout of bravery I took my lessons to an education publisher and again, I got very positive feedback. So now I have started writing three study methods and they will be published in the near future!

ThoughtsThat was an example of: perfectionism –> triumph –> motivation. Unfortunately it doesn’t always turn out that way. Another example.

I graduated from my master’s last August. For nearly a year now I have been looking for a job, but things aren’t easy in the current economic climate. I have been rejected so often now, that I have become frustrated. I have a pretty good CV, I know I write decent letters and I definitely am passionate, but it is all to no avail. The problem is my lack of relevant work experience, but it still feels like I am rejected as a person. It’s not rational, but most things in this world aren’t. As a result of my frustration, my motivation has dropped dramatically. Whenever I finally find another job I could apply for, I find myself thinking: “What’s the point? They’re going to reject me anyway.”

So how to deal with that lack of motivation that comes from the frustration of being unsuccessful a.k.a. ‘not perfect’? It’s a type of frustration that can pop up in all facets of life. For me, it is most prominent in the realms of career, writing, art, film making, social interaction… basically it’s everywhere. And yet I can’t let it take away my motivation. That would be counter-productive. So what do I do? Well, three things basically:

– Give up and focus on a different project

– Get angry and do something impulsive that I normally wouldn’t dare. Oddly enough, this frequently renders positive results.

– Accept the fact that it isn’t working right now, but that it might yet grow into something. In other words: keep ploughing on despite the lack of motivation.

I think each of these three options can be the right one for a particular situation at a particular moment. Sometimes I’ll choose the right options, sometimes I don’t. Life isn’t exactly a science, so all we can do is go by our guts. Not an easy thing!

So, are you a perfectionist? How do you deal with the frustration? Or if you’re not a perfectionist, is it any different for you or do you get equally frustrated?

5 responses to “Motivation & Perfectionism

  1. Another option is to lower your personal standards a little bit and be a perfectionist on that level; makes life a little bit easier.
    I know its hard not having what you deeply desire but; “Life is what happens while your busy making other plans’.
    And then something unexpected and yet so much better might occur.
    Frustration is okay when its powerfull energy is transformes in inspiration.
    ‘Kop d’r voor!’

  2. I used to be a horrible perfectionist… (still am from time to time, but rarely, now only when very stressed or nervous) I took a page from a Native American thought… it is bad luck for things to be perfect, so they would craft imperfections in on purpose!!! **smiles** it has really helped me to shift my way of thinking.

  3. Yes, you do all the right things, but because of circumstances outside of you, you do not get what you would want. You can’t change that, you only can change yourself. So I wholehwartily agree with Lineke, Try to lower your standards and be ok with it. Love yourself a little for what you are instead of how well you did. It’s difficult. took me about owww, 23 years? And you know I’m still a perfectionist in some things, but I also love myself enough to let go when I need to and not worry about it. Dit is wat er is en daar moet je het mee doen. Mischien loslaten wat je verwacht van jezelf en lekker jezelf toestaan om helemaal ongemotiveerd te zijn, en dan ben je gewoon ook OK. x

    • That’s an excellent point, although lowering one’s standards is easier said than done. But I like the idea. Of course you can’t stop being a perfectionist, it’s probably too deep-rooted a conviction, but changing it just a little might be enough and much more feasible. Thanks for sharing your insights!

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