The downfalls of being a perfectionist

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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?

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26 thoughts on “The downfalls of being a perfectionist”

  1. Striving to be a perfectionist is like punishing ourselves. We can never reach perfection in anything because there are always going to be flaws in each one of us so we might as well let the dust settle. I agree with you on the note about control. There is definitely a link.

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  2. Phoenicia, I believe nobody is perfect. We all have our flaws to work on and rather than accepting them we must try and work it.

    I try on being more effective rather than being perfect. 😉

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  3. I like your three tips for minimizing the role of perfectionism in one’s life. My greatest downfall is that I don’t use your #2 tip enough (set realistic expectations. I constantly think I can do more than I actually can.

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  4. I know I have a problem with perfectionism big time and struggle with breaking away from that. I have a lot of self-esteem issues and I also a disability on top of that. Right now, I spend more time focusing on myself as I noticed it was crippling me a lot. It’s great to do the best you can. If I have one advice to give to people is to don’t over do it. Work with what you can and walk away from it when it gets too much. It also affects your decision making overall, which it is not good.

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    1. Janelle – thank you for sharing your personal experience. Each one of us can encourage another with our journey. As you state we should refrain from overdoing things and cut ourselves some slack.

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  5. Hey Phoenicia,
    Awesome tips there and I can’t tell you how important these are.
    Good writing, consistency, and the act of pushing the content around.

    Thanks.

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  6. Very nice post, I know striving for perfection can be frustrating and neurotic.
    As for me, I always allow myself NOT to accept my flaws or myself, it is what drives me to continue to improve.

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  7. I can fall into perfectionist patterns having spent most of my early life as a perfectionist. So I need little reminders like this post to catch myself from going back to my pattern of perfectionism. When you’ve lived your way for so much of your life, it is easy to fall back into a pattern without realizing it. So this is a great reminder not to.

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  8. Until you put a paint brush in my hand, you’d never know I have the perfectionism gene. Then, I reach the ridiculous. The room looks good when the walls are done, but that one little line there? Oh, give me the brush again. Yep, ridiculous.

    I strive to write well in my blogs and novels, but I realize that perfection doesn’t happen with the best writers, so I will make sure to always do my best and know that is good.

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  9. Great post, Phoenicia. I am so NOT a perfectionist. I don’t have time or the desire to be a perfectionist as there4 are so many demands on my time. “Good enough” is always good enough for me.

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  10. I used to have a real problem with this issue and I can tell you exactly when made a break through. I had written my first book and was in edit-hell because of my perfectionist tendencies. I kept going over and over every page, and then I realized that at the rate I was going the book would never be published!

    The process of publishing my book and then making peace with reviews was life changing for me. Of course, I admit that it didn’t hurt that the reviews have all been very positive so had people said the book sucked that might have been a different story. These days I give myself a cut-off to end a project and strive for excellence rather than perfectionism.

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    1. Marquita – thank you for sharing your experience. I like your approach on banishing perfectionalism from your life. You can continue to go over your written content until the words become blurred!

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  11. I know I can never be perfect. But I try to do things as efficiently as possible. Perhaps this is the only thing to do.

    However trying to complete an assignment or work perfectly improves the quality of the output result.

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  12. Hello. I have battled perfectionism most of my life. It prevents you from completing tasks because you need to finish them precisely. As Sheryl Sanberg says, “Done is better than perfect.” I would advise anyone struggling with this problem to work on getting things done quickly and forget about perfection. It’s unattainable.

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