There was a time I thought that being a perfectionist is a sign of having high standards. Over the years I've come to see that the thin veneer on the surface of perfection barely manages to conceal the rot at the core of the issue, slowly but surely eating at you without you even realising it. It's been a slow process for me to accept who I am, and to be who I am, not some perfect, unattainable version of myself. When it comes to humans, there is no such thing as perfect. We're flawed beings, and there is beauty in discovering your true self and being vulnerable enough to show that to the world. Perfectionism is driven by fear. Fear of failure, fear of how we will be perceived, fear of rejection. Here are a few reasons why it's destructive:
1. Perfectionism perpetuates overthinking & anxiety:
If you're a perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough. There is immense anxiety in trying to do something perfectly, yet never really reaching that goal, because it's impossible to attain. It won't stop you trying though. The striving is physically and mentally exhausting. Perfectionism will rear its ugly head in areas that are very important to you, where you feel the need to please others, and to project an image of mastery and success. For me, this was my work. For you, it might be parenting or another relationship. Everybody has their own areas of weakness, and the areas where we operate most under fear, we tend to strive the hardest to control.
2. Perfectionists are very hard on themselves and on others:
The impossible standards you set for yourself as a perfectionist doesn't just influence your own life. When you project your desire for perfection onto others, you expect perfection of them and tend to make it very clear when you see them fall short. This cannot beneficial to a relationship in any way. It comes across as judgmental, and there is no room for intimacy in a relationship where there is judgement instead of acceptance.
3. It keeps you trapped:
Trying to do things perfectly will keep you trapped in a prison of fear. There is no freedom in perfectionism when every single decision you make is made out of fear. If perfectionism masquerades as competence, you can spend years striving while convincing yourself you're only doing your best. The difference between doing your best and perfectionism is the motive with which you make decisions. Doing your best comes from a place of freedom where you have good standards and are proud of how you conduct yourself in your work or your relationships, but you're willing to let it go when the outcome is not what you would have wanted. Perfectionism is driven by the desire to control a situation in order to shape someone's perception of you. Many creatives suffer from impostor syndrome, where you feel like a fraud, and you feel like don't deserve the position you're in or the task you've been given. They use perfectionism as a shield against their feelings of inadequacy. Can you see how fear is at the root of that? If you're in this position, your hands are tied, and growth is impossible because growth requires you to be vulnerable and to be your authentic self despite what others may think.
4. Perfectionism and procrastination are bedfellows:
It's painful to do a task imperfectly, so it's tempting to procrastinate because the task that hasn't been done yet, hasn't yet been done imperfectly. The longer you leave it, the more it will gnaw at you, reminding you that you don't have what it takes to complete the task successfully. It's a vicious cycle and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you finally push through and rush through the task to meet the deadline, you will end up feeling inadequate because you will know it's not your best work, proving to yourself that you're not perfect, and perhaps even that you don't belong.
I see myself as a recovering perfectionist. It's a process, but when you're self-aware, you're able to recognise when you're sliding down the slippery slope of striving, and you can stop yourself before it's too late. I'm not going to pretend that it's been easy. In fact, it's been a difficult journey, but letting go of perfectionism has allowed me the freedom to be the best version of me, precisely who I've been created to be. I realise not everybody will like that, and I'm ok with that. I wish that for everyone who has battled with this. If you've struggled with perfectionism, I hope that this has helped you to see why getting freedom from it is the first step to living a truly authentic, rewarding life.
Until next time,