Being Perfect or Happily Alive ?



According to a recent study (Curran et al, 2017) the number of people having perfectionistic tendencies in society is increasing, whether it is self-oriented-, socially prescribed- or other-oriented perfectionism. This does not mean we are becoming more accomplished, but rather that we are undermining our own potential and so getting sicker and even sadder.

"Better a diamond with a flaw, than a pebble without" or "Perfect is the enemy of good". There are many ways of saying the same thing. Already Aristotle and other classical philosophers advocated against perfectionism and excess in general.

The 80/20 rule (the Pareto principle) assumes that 80 percent of our outcomes come from 20 percent of our inputs. Achieving absolute perfection may be close to impossible and so, as increasing effort results in diminishing returns, further activity becomes increasingly inefficient.

The cult of the imperfect states "Give them the third best, as the second best comes too late, and the best never comes." Another way of putting it is "If you never miss a plane, you're spending too much time at the airport."

Perfectionism is a multidimensional characteristic, with both positive and negative aspects, but in its maladaptive form, perfectionism drives us to attempt to achieve unattainable ideals or unrealistic goals. Pressuring ourselves to achieve unrealistic goals inevitably sets us up for disappointment, often leading to low self-esteem and depression.

Perfectionism is setting up an abstract, external ideal of what we should be or should be able to do, that has little or no relationship to who we are or what we need to do, and then trying to mold ourselves into that ideal. In trying to be the abstract perfect, we batter, judge and distort ourselves. No matter what we do or how we try to achieve, it is never enough - we are never enough. Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.

The drawback of perfectionism is not only that it holds us back from being our most successful, productive self. Stress and worry often accompany this irrational belief that everything should be perfect. Perfectionistic tendencies have been linked to a long list of clinical issues such as depression and anxiety (also in children), self-harm, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders of different kinds, insomnia, chronic headaches, and even early mortality and suicide.

There are other ways. Time to ask for support to move away from perfectionistic tendencies?