Is it perfectionism, or high standards?

I spent nearly two days writing my last blog post, working it and re-working it, trying hard to get the words on the page to match the grand vision in my head. It took a lot of effort, and it was time-consuming, and although it felt good to hit "Send", I still wasn't thrilled with the final product.

Many people would call that a form of perfectionism -- and it's something that's been with me all my life.

"You're too hard on yourself," people have said to me regularly. "Be realistic." "Don't try so hard to be perfect." "Don't take yourself so seriously." "Why not just accept 'good enough' and be done with it?"

All of this may have been well-meaning advice, but the real message I picked up was that there was something wrong with striving for greatness, something wrong with not wanting to settle for "good enough". These were marks of perfectionism, and perfectionism was bad. It was egotistical, unrealistic, inappropriate.

This created quite an internal conflict, because that desire for greatness, that drive to pursue what's possible, is also huge part of who I am and what makes me happy. 

So it was to my utter delight that I found myself saying to my family at the end of that tough newsletter slog last week, "Well, sometimes that's just what it's like when you have high standards for yourself."

High standards.

With that one phrase, the label of "perfectionist" suddenly lost all its power. No longer did I have a shameful character flaw; I simply cared enough about something to work harder at it than other people.

I also realized that there are plenty of areas in my life where I'm not a perfectionist. It is not a global trait.

It made me wonder: Does everyone have some areas where they look like a perfectionist to the average person? Do you? Are there certain situations where you are especially hard on yourself, or quick to notice people's shortcomings, or frustrated when other people don't care as much as you do? If so, maybe those are the areas where you have the most to contribute to the world, where it's especially important that you not pull back and try to be just like everyone else, but instead strive to get a little closer to perfection every day.

Thank you for putting in the work.