The downfalls of being a perfectionist


Edwin Bliss quoted:

“The pursuit of excellence is gratifying, the pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic and a terrible waste of time”.

Not one of us on this earth is and can ever be perfect but this does not stop one from trying. It is a “lose lose” situation – one tries to do everything right and inevitably a mistake is made, a task is overlooked. One is then critical of themselves and proceeds to seek perfection in the next task they take on or in their day-to-day life.

Last week I wrote on acceptance which heavily relates to perfectionism. Perfectionism is a quest to be everything to everyone, to excel in all you do, to be correct all of the time. It is not possible and definitely not sustainable. It is exhausting attempting to live a life of perfection as one is constantly frustrated with themselves for perhaps saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing.

Perfectionism also links to the need for control. Ensuring life is as you want it because there were periods in which you had very little control. As I write this I can recall many times in my life when I strived for perfectionism due to my insecurities and a need to “own” something. As a child and teenager I often felt vulnerable and paralysed by what others did or said to me. Perfectionism was my method of convincing myself that I could excel and at last gave me a concrete reason to value myself. The valuing of self did not last of course, as when I made an error I slipped back into “oh woe is me” syndrome.

It is unhealthy to set unrealistic standards for our lives as we will forever be missing the mark and move into a period of self-doubt, confusion and more often than not depression.

Striving to develop ourselves is not wrong in itself but placing unnecessary pressure on ourselves is detrimental to our well-being and peace of mind. We have got to be at one with ourselves, recognising our strengths and weaknesses and being at ease with this.

A few tips to minimise your need to be a perfectionist;

1.Improve your self-esteem – one seeks perfection for validation. Learn to accept yourself, flaws and all. Learn to laugh at yourself. It worked wonders for me!

2.Aim to set realistic expectations for yourself. Perfectionists struggle when they do not hit the mark.

3.Focus on the bigger picture and delegate wherever possible. Spending too much time on one task can bring tunnel vision.

Are you a perfectionist – can you link this back to a specific period or event in your life?

What advice would you give to a perfectionist?