Many of us have met a self-proclaimed “perfectionist.” While these declarations are seemingly made to impress us, they often elicit the exact opposite reaction. Instead of amazement, we feel annoyed, as if this person is really saying they’re better than us.
However, for many people with perfectionist tendencies, having this trait isn’t a flex but a crutch. When I say this I don’t mean being perfect is an arduous fate, something a mere non-perfectionist could never comprehend. I mean constantly striving for the unattainable goal of perfection is an unhealthy way to live.
To illustrate this idea, I’ll use an example from my own life. When I was younger, one of my favorite activities was softball. Out of every position I occupied, none compared to the feeling of being a pitcher. From the wind up to the feeling of throwing a strike, I loved almost everything about pitching.
Although this was one of my favorite positions, there was rarely a game where I didn’t cry at the mound. I was driven to be the best, to strike out every person that walked up to home plate. It didn’t matter how far ahead my team was, if a batter escaped my clutches — I was essentially a failure.
Not only did this attitude affect the way I played softball, but it also seeped into every other aspect of my life. In the pursuit of perfection, I put off important projects for fear of making a mistake. I spent endless amounts of time choosing the “right” outfit and I even micromanaged every word that came out of my mouth.
Eventually, I reached a point where everything I did, no matter how insignificant, was put under a microscope. From the way I walked to the way I ate food, nothing was safe from criticism. Over time, this drive for perfection chipped away at my self-esteem, and a fearful shell replaced the exuberant person I once was.
Indeed, rather than being a desirable trait, perfectionistic thinking can be detrimental in several ways according to Healthline. In addition to lower self-esteem, perfectionism lends itself to a fear of trying new things, procrastination and an inability to relax. It can even interfere with interpersonal relationships, as we place unrealistic standards on others.
Needless to say, walking the road to perfection is a daunting undertaking, but try as you might you’ll never reach the end. The truth is perfection isn’t possible to attain, and no amount of work and time will change that. While this may come as a hard pill to swallow, it can also be liberating to know that no one, regardless of how great their lives may appear, is perfect.
Accepting this reality is a good starting point to curbing unhealthy perfectionism. Although overcoming it is challenging, there are several ways to thwart this type of thinking. These include setting realistic goals, focusing on the positive aspects of ourselves rather than emphasizing the negatives and viewing mistakes as learning opportunities. However, if perfectionism is interfering with your ability to enjoy life, seeking help from a mental health professional is a great way to go.
According to research from the American Psychological Association, the desire to be perfect has increased among younger generations. With this in mind, it’s important to recall Hannah Montana’s famous mantra: “everybody makes mistakes.” Life is too short to stress about acing every assignment or having a flawless hairdo. Besides, there is something special about not being squeaky clean in all aspects of life and it’s that which makes life more interesting.