Strengths in Action - My OCD: Obsessive Compulsive Detail

Lizzie Hyde - Marketing Consultant

I like spotting errors.
Strange I know, but I feel a sense of joy when I see mistakes I can correct. I can't read a book or magazine without looking for errors. Whilst this may sound fun(!), I’ve not always felt this way.
This fixation on errors hasn’t always been in my life, or at least, I wasn’t always aware of it. I have, however, always had a sense of perfectionism. Having watched my Dad take 12 painstaking years to decorate our bathroom actually ingrained a sense of perfectionism in me rather than making me shy away from it. Over the years this spread into many areas of my life - tidiness of my bedroom not included - and when I was at University it began to rule my academic work and studies.

I would spend hours reading the same paragraph I had written over and over to ensure that I hadn’t made a mistake and it made sense - and I do mean hours. Writing an essay would take months, and when it came to my Master’s Thesis of 20,000 words, this was certainly a tiring affair.

After my studies, I worked for a few years at a couple of Universities before moving to London. This was, I had thought, going to be the ‘start of my life’. However, things never quite work out as you expect them to! After being in London for a few months in a short-term let, I found - what I thought was - a decent flat that I could really settle into and begin my life in London. On moving in, however, I realised the flat was never going to be my forever home - reason being - it was filthy. And I mean 3 inches of dust embedded in a carpet filthy. It was then something changed, and within the space of a week I went from 0 to 100 with a sense of panic and feeling dirty. I didn’t feel like myself, and I began to fixate on thinking everything around me was contaminated and going to make me ill.

I was then diagnosed with OCD.

I won’t go into the details of my OCD ups and downs, but as a result, I moved back home to the Midlands. I struggled to work for a while, actually being housebound for 5 weeks at my lowest, but after receiving CBT therapy, along with huge support from my family and friends, I began to deal with it. When I felt ready to work again I did a few temp jobs and then just over two years ago began a job at Capp.

On joining Capp I took my Strengths Profile and this helped me understand more about myself than I could have ever imagined.

It was no surprise that Bounceback and Courage were Weaknesses, having been through what I had. Neither was it a surprise that Planner and Order were my top two Realised Strengths. Detail was then sitting as my third Realised Strength and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Obviously, I was aware that I was ‘pinnikity’ as someone once said, and of course I had for some time checked my work with a high level of detail, but the underlying element of a Realised Strength was that I enjoyed it and felt energised when doing it. Yet I felt drained, tired, and even upset with myself when I had to check my work so closely. It then clicked - this was the OCD talking. The reason I was annoyed at myself was that I felt I ‘had to’ work to this level of detail and not that I wanted to.

It was suggested I look at my Strengths Profile for other strengths that could be used to assist and support the level of detail I felt I needed to work to. It turned out that I had an Unrealised Strength in Mission, meaning this was something I was good at and enjoyed, but hadn’t had the opportunity to put into practice. I realised that if I could focus my actions on a purpose, give them meaning, I may begin to see them differently. I began to appreciate that I didn't enjoy my perfectionist side that encompassed Planner, Order, Detail, and Pride because I didn’t understand it. Now I have a sense of why these work and a purpose in my actions, I have begun to enjoy the level of detail I have.

As Marketing Consultant at Capp, I'm involved in producing numerous event materials and documents that need to be of the highest quality. My renewed love of detail allows me to finalise documents with ease, and though I'm proofing on an almost daily basis, I now enjoy it so much that it just doesn't feel like work. Whilst this would be some people's nightmare, I love it, and I love being able to put my Strength in Detail into action every day.

(...and yes I have read this at least 20 times before posting - and I'm still convinced there's a mistake!)