Stop the Madness: Perfectionism and Online Community Moderation

Perfectionism is a demanding and exacting companion that often tortures high achievers, creatives and anyone striving for excellence. It appears shiny at first, promising praise, glory and the absence of criticism if only a certain quality product is delivered. Unable to meet such standards, the creative sufferer procrastinates, obsesses, doubts and may ultimately give up. Feeling worthless, it’s common to blame one’s self for not meeting perfectionism’s ruthless standards.

In moderating online health communities, one is given a brief moment to offer support, knowledge or boundaries to individuals courageous enough to share a piece of their struggle. How can one or two sentences show the care behind the words and offer connection across isolation? It’s easy to see how perfectionism may creep in, tempting the well-meaning moderator to search for the best response. How does one continue onward in their goal and not get trapped in the snare of perfectionism? While there’s no quick fix, there are 4 strategies that can be useful:

  1. Notice: As the line between striving for excellence and perfectionism can be blurry, it’s easy to cross without being aware. To notice and be mindful, get curious: Am I taking longer than usual in responding? Am I distracted? Am I berating myself for not be as good as other moderators? If so, perfectionism may have creeped in. What next?
  2. Neutralize: Our instinct can be to try to stop the perfectionistic thoughts. However, when we try to block a thought, it usually comes back stronger. Test this out: Don’t think of a blue elephant. Don’t think of a blue elephant. Don’t think of a blue elephant. What are you thinking about? Blue elephant?! Most people would! Instead of pushing away, add supportive thoughts such as “Good enough is good enough” and “I’m striving for excellence, not perfection” to neutralize the perfectionistic thoughts.

3. Normalize: One of perfectionism’s lies is minimizing the challenge of the task and convincing us that we are not up for it. Take a moment to consider the complexities of moderating. In face to face dialogue, words account for the smallest percentage of communication with body language and tone accounting for the largest percentage. Moderating can require a whole different set of skills, such as noticing the way a comment is phrased or the punctuation used. It usually requires a shift that can take some getting used to.

4. Next Action: In 12-step programs there is a slogan commonly used that goes “Do the next right thing”. Actions can offer assistance and interruption when thoughts start to spiral! Applied to moderating this can mean continuing to write, even if you’re not 100% satisfied with the outcome. It can also mean checking it with yourself. Are you hungry? Tired? In need of a break? Determine what need is coming up and offer yourself the kindness of meeting it.

Breaking out of the chains of perfectionism and channeling the strengths underneath can be tricky and challenging, especially at first. However, the long-term benefits can be immensely rewarding. Practices of self-compassion, applied to community moderating, can become routine over time, alleviating suffering and freeing creative potential. Moderating can be freed of painful judgment and carried out with greater fulfillment and joy. Better yet, one may find other areas of one’s life, also impacted by perfectionism are improved as well.

Have you struggled with perfectionism either in moderating or elsewhere? What have you found helpful? Do you have any additional tips you’d like to share?

Photo credit: Unsplash

Psychotherapist I Psychiatric ER Clinician. Intrigued by the intersection of physical, psychological, and spiritual health. @brooke_licsw Twitter

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store