The vicious ADHD perfectionism trap ambushes many of my ADHD coaching clients. Attempting unrealistic perfection lures these ADHD adults into devoting too much time to projects, hence leaving the rest of their lives a tangled, anxiety-filled mess.
On the surface it doesn’t seem ADHD and perfectionism would go together. After all, most ADHD adults have a rather slap-dab approach to life.
Yet many perfectionists to come to me for ADHD coaching. At any one time I usually have one or two clients whose lives are spinning out of control due to their need to do things perfectly.
Even without an ADHD diagnosis perfectionism is a nightmare. Add Adult ADHD symptoms such as distraction and procrastination to the perfectionist mix? You’ve got the makings of a horror movie.
Without a plan for how much effort to give a task or project, perfectionists do way more than necessary.
Spending too much time doing things perfectly means other important priorities get pushed aside. ADHD perfectionism leads to overwhelm, stress, and delay.
Most of the perfectionists in my ADHD coaching practice have successful careers. They’re doctors, lawyers, business owners or high-level managers.
Their perfectionism got them through school. Now they’re adults with the complexity of work and family responsibilities. That perfectionism that pushed them to success in school now torpedos them.
My perfectionist clients tell me of spending an hour writing a simple email message. Staying up half the night to finish a routine report.
Straightening one shelf in the linen closet isn’t enough. They feel compelled to pull out the entire contents and straighten the whole thing.
Why Does ADHD Perfectionism Occur?
In his book, More Attention, Less Deficit, Psychologist Ari Tuckman addresses this drive to do things perfectly. Dr. Tuckman believes perfectionism is often overcompensation. A way to deal with the inner fear many ADHD adults have of not doing things well enough.
Most of us have spent a lifetime being told to ‘just try harder’. Many ADHD adults feel like failures.
Dr. Tuckman says perfectionists take it to the level of trying to prove their worth by being perfect. Often they’re not trying to prove their worth to others but to themselves.
Stay tuned. I’ll devote next week’s ADHD Success to overcoming ADHD perfectionism. Being a perfectionist makes living successfully with ADHD impossible. It’s time we start talking about it.