The Curse of Perfection

The Curse of Perfection

  • All or nothing thinking
  • Black or white decision making
  • Doing things perfectly or not at all

Is striving for perfection really a problem?

Surely doing one’s best is commendable?

Perfectionist tendencies are something I see a lot of in my work. This habit of striving for perfection is more common in type A personalities; often characterised by high achieving, ambitious, rigidly organized and anxious. For some, their view of themselves as Type A personality justifies their perfectionist behaviours i.e. I’m a perfectionist because I’m a Type A personality. 

The Problem with Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a problem only if it’s become a problem which is often where I come in. Perfectionist tendencies underlie many common problems I help clients with including:

Stress & Anxiety. The constant striving in perfectionists can activate the sympathetic nervous system stimulating stress hormones which on a prolonged basis aren’t good for our heart, blood pressure or general health. 

Low self esteem from continuously living with the voice of their inner critic. Is it any wonder? Perfectionists are often over generous with criticism of themselves whilst giving more rational explanations for shortfalls of friends and others. As to be perfect isn’t human, in many ways their perfectionist tendencies set them up for failure from the start. 

Lack of enjoyment. Instead of enjoying life for what it is, naval gazing and minutiae obsessed perfectionism can seep the joy out of our days. With a further mountain at the top of any peak, life is a continuous struggle with work, work and more work favoured over simple pleasures.   

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Aside from obvious health reasons, other benefits of giving ourselves some slack include:

Life is a whole lot more fun. Seriously who cares! Will you really worry on your death bed that you get 80% instead of 95% in your test? Or that the paint colour turns out to be a tiny shade lighter than you wanted? Or that you skipped your gym class when you had planned to go? Having structure or plans can be good however so too can be cutting yourself a little slack. 

Life is more real. Let’s be honest, perfect isn’t real. Real makes us more accepting of others. Real also makes us more relatable and comfortable to others. Choose real over perfect any day! 

Life is more colourful. Perfectionism offers two options: black or white. What about all those shades of cream and grey in between? Or even better, the spectrum of colours of the rainbow? Why limit yourself to two options when you can enjoy so much more choice?

How to rein in perfectionist tendencies? 

  • Stop the comparison. With a whole universe of stars in our sky, each one shines its own light. No better, no worse. #Doyou and shine your own light. 
  • Practice making fast or at least faster decisions (on less important decisions note!). Set a timer for time up!
  • Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen (e.g. if you don’t do as planned, hoped etc)
  • See failure as the feedback that it really is. We don’t learn from getting it right.
  • Make ‘Good Enough’ your new mantra!

To quote Stephen Hawkins, Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking, The Discovery Channel, 2010:

Without imperfection, you or I would not exist” 

If you, or anyone you know wants help with stress & anxiety, low self-esteem or perfectionism to make life more colourful, get in touch here and let’s chat. 

Image courtesy of Freestocks.org