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Perfectionism and INTJs: More Thoughts & Strategies

Thursday July 8, 2021

Jesse writes,

…I had a pretty big life-changer experience. I always wondered where my exhaustion/anxiety and depression came from. I didn’t feel they were inborn; that they were just symptoms of a systemic problem.

Turns out I’m a clinical perfectionist. Learning this has been massively relieving. I gander many INTJs struggles with this. Probably any high-achieving personality type.

This video really opened my eyes. I’m reading Overcoming Perfectionism now. I feel 100 pounds lighter.

Thanks Jesse for sharing your experience and the video. And way to go! I’m really happy for you, you deserve it all and more.

Jesse’s email made me think about where perfectionism fit into my own journey.

Thoughts on Perfectionism

I remembered that for me, perfectionism was by far the worst when I was working in xSTJ business environments where A) rules governing employees were valued over output, and 2) my own subjective values were not appreciated or demonstrated.

It’s been a while since I’ve been in that situation though, so I’m not sure how it would work out these days. I’d like to think I could go back and really push back, but who knows. Groups are powerful and self-protective.

And that’s a circumstantial example. I think circumstances really matter. We humans like to think we can “fix” things but sometimes that’s a really dumb notion.

Getting out of those circumstances (i.e. quitting both positions and moving the f*** on with my life) almost instantly “cured” my perfectionism, including weird things like a speech impediment I was starting to develop! It’s a memory from long ago that still makes me shake my head.

However, there are certainly a lot of strategies that have helped when I get into more of a perfectionist mode. These have helped me from falling into the same old traps over and over, even or especially when working for myself. So here we go!

Other Strategies

Off the top of my head, some things that helped me deal with perfectionism in general:

  • Always try to define the minimum amount of work that will satisfy all stakeholders.
    • Even if you’re the only stakeholder.
    • On an ongoing basis, find ways to leverage portions of the work which make the minimum easier, and which allow you to raise the bar a little bit.
    • My theory is that “minimum” is not really going to be a minimum for a perfectionist anyway, so there’s no need to worry about under-doing. There will always be some incidental perfectionism.
  • Take the S/N “Do / Don’t Do” model to heart. Someone said, “INTJs are perceiver-thinkers, not so much doers.”
    • Does this mean we can’t do? No way! So don’t let your “I’m so great at doing” ego destroy you—there is a LOT you can accomplish in life by leaning harder into that non-doing stance. The outside world sees much of it as pure artisanal wisdom. (As long as we don’t brag about it)
    • If your perfectionism is in ANY WAY feeding a tendency to brag or even humble-brag, a la the Se-Fi “I’m so great, in fact greatness is what makes me so great” life hack, be careful. This can turn into a huge Fe blindspot issue.
  • Take the NiTe-SeFi “Perfectionistic Swings” model to heart.
    • Swings WILL happen. You WILL become a doer, and maybe even a frantic, impassioned doer at that.
    • Some of these swings will incorporate so much bottled-up emotion that you’ll over-commit to a project. This can also be described as perfectionism.
    • Try to keep it loose, don’t bring your introvert side’s depth too far into this one, at least not at first.
    • Try to keep it improvisatory if possible. Loose, improvisatory doing supported by ongoing learning can start to look like style over time—and who doesn’t like that?
    • Time it, don’t expect to go all day. Force breaks.
    • Bring in mood support—good snacks, music to listen to, movies to watch, turn on a fan, whatever it takes.
  • Live like a cat. Lazy, lazy, lazy, BOOM focused energy, lazy, lazy, lazy…
  • Do some list-making during downtime. I personally prioritize by task momentum, so most-interesting-first is my frequent list-making rule in order to make the ramp-up as quick and easy as possible.
    • God I use dashes a lot. rofl
  • Give thoughts and emotions time to balance out the to-do list.
    • Write, then wait. Come back to your list. What looks off? What does it need more of / less of?
  • Consider the Task BATL-style focus on measured / quanitifed & balanced productivity
    • You should feel secure in your pursuit of your own skills and interests. Not somebody else’s. And a lot of them should be skills you have mastered and continue to develop. You should be able to demonstrate leverage and control over them (see the end of that post) and this ought to help you understand that these are sustainable skills which you are comfortable building slowly over time. Less spike, and less general concern. You are secure in your pursuit of them. By definition you’ll be less perfectionistic about them.
    • You should know how long stuff will take and what the steps are—minimum. Consider the first point of the productivity triangle.
  • Harness the power of subjectivity. Defining yourself by your internal world and various interests brought forward from your own past. Learn deeply about your own values and interests. Work to develop them; long-term interests often define areas of strength. Actively set time and energy boundaries in environments where those values and interests aren’t accepted or used.
    • This will also help you stop comparing yourself so much to other people.
  • Don’t let important or deeply-emotional thoughts flit in and out of your mind constantly. Keep an organized system of notes so you can leverage the things you’re thinking or feeling about today, later on.
    • I use markdown and Geany for both note-taking and journaling. Most of my notes on any given topic also include a progress tracker or To-Do list. Forgetting where you’re at with, and learning about, a thing you’re interested in can also look like a driver of perfectionism.
  • Keep in mind: “I’m not done yet” — please watch the Mike Lin Webinar Video and while watching, think of yourself as a life-designer.

That’s all I got for now…plus you guys know how this blog works (high-volume slop first, fix later) so you get to see me actively trashing perfectionism with every chance I get. We are FAR from perfect here.

Hope it helps!

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