Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it. ~ Salvador Dali
I’ve learned something about myself in the last week. Or maybe I’ve re-learned it. It’s one of those things I already knew, but sometimes manage to sweep into a shadowy corner. I am a perfectionist and control freak. I know ‘perfectionist’ is one of those things you’re meant to be able to say at job interviews as an example of a negative-that’s-really-a-positive. You know, “Oh I just pay such attention to minute details and need everything to be perfect. It’s such a burden! *mock sigh*” But, without trivialising mental health issues, it really can feel like a disorder when it becomes obsessive and consuming, as it does for me from time to time.
I tend to research everything to the extreme. From high intensity training and child birth to travel and party planning, I over-read and over-think. I create dossiers and Pinterest boards and wake up in the night with ideas.
The event that has brought my own desire for control over the minutest of details out of the shadows this time is putting our house on the market. While we’ve been thinking about the possibility for a while, last Wednesday we met with real estate agents. Thursday we signed the paperwork. Monday the house was photographed. Wednesday we received the marketing proofs. Thursday the house went on the market. Sunday the house will be open.
Never mind that it’s school holidays and I am home hanging out with my 4 year old and 6 year old while also preparing for a new school year in a new role, and trying to get various academic writing projects moved along their pipelines. Never mind all that. The house must look perfect.
I have decluttered to the point that our double garage now only fits one car. I have planted and mulched and watered the garden. I have fixed and hired tradies and made my husband lists of jobs. He visibly rolled his eyes when I was changing every lightbulb and cleaning every light fitting. I don’t even think he knows that I bought new fluffy white towels for photos and home opens. He probably hasn’t noticed my artful re-arranging of what we own. He does know I went to a wholesale flower market to buy flowers to arrange around the house. That I borrowed some lovely wall art from our friend at Frank Prints. That I’ve emptied and organised every cupboard in the house. That I re-wrote the real estate copy for the agent. And that I was disappointed at tiny things about the professional photos (leaving cords from the back of the tv uncropped and in the frame; the photographer’s bag visible down the hallway; no pics of the internal courtyard). None of these are things that will stop a buyer from coming to a home open or potentially buying the house, but they are things that have been on my mind and the whole process of preparing to sell has kicked off a little internal obsessive insomnia-inducing twitch.
(Disclosure: 6 years ago, when we sold our last place, I took the marketing photos and wrote the real estate copy myself, as well as staging the home. This behaviour isn’t new!)
This in the same fortnight that I have failed to meet my own weekly blogging deadline. (My perfectionism does know bounds. I can’t sustain it in all areas of my life or at all times.) For most of last year, I posted a blog every Friday. This year, since the first of the month, I haven’t blogged. Partly, what has been on my mind is hanging out with my kids before the summer break ends, and getting the house ready for sale, not things the internet probably wants to know about (yet here I am writing about them). I also figured that my oneword for 2017—nourish—allows me to take a break from blogging deadlines in the name of self-preservation. But here I am, back to my Friday posting.
Also this week I was on a leadership retreat during which I had a refresher on the HBDI (Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument) that encourages self and team reflection on preferences of ways of working, thinking and relating to others and to problems. I was reminded of my love for details and my tendency to be excruciatingly clinical and heavily researched about everything. Just what I’ve been doing with my house. It was a good reminder to be mindful of letting go, for the sake of myself and others.
Tying myself in knots about the need for something to be perfect (an academic paper, a report to the school board, a presentation slide deck, a lesson, some performance review documentation) isn’t helpful. I need to be able to let go and be ok with good-but-not-exactly-how-I-envisaged-it. The only time I felt ok about this kind of obsession was with my PhD thesis; that seems an appropriate thing to obsess over so I was able to immerse myself in it guilt and shame free.
So I am going to try to be mindful of letting go of holding onto unrealistic expectations or obsessing over the minutest of details. I’m going to try to celebrate the benefits of caring about precision (because it does have perks!) while giving myself permission to be ok with a level of disarray.