The fundamental irony of perfection is that we are taught to strive for it only to discover that it is that ever present striving that prevents us from living a happy life. On the surface perfectionism is an admirable trait as it usually produce excellence, but it comes at a cost. And that cost is the feeling that what we are doing is never enough, we are never enough.
I work in profession dominated by A type personalities. To play the game and succeed, we were all striving to bring not only our A game, but to perpetually push and push so that one day we would be able to bring and sustain our A+ game. Writing this now it reminds me of the old party game of blowing at an air filled balloon to ensure that it never reaches the floor. Having kept the balloon in the air, at the end of the game you are left breathless and dizzy, but with a fleetingly temporary sense of achievement.
I have been researching the ways that perfectionism is ironic and have come up with the following list:
- if ever anyone could achieve the state of perfection, it is doubtful anyone could tolerate that perfectionist for long. Fun is an integral part of life.
- true perfection is about enjoying the moment, enjoying life. Perfectionism tends to rob us of this enjoyment and of our sense of awe and wonder.
believing as a perfectionist that you must never make mistakes means that you will probably look out for any mistakes or signs of failure so you can correct these immediately.
the demand for perfection can actually impede performance. For example, you may turn you into a chronic procrastinator because of the fear of making mistakes. This also extends to being less innovative and creative or less open to new ideas.
- far from being liberating, perfectionism is a psychological dictatorship. As one site puts it:
These personal restrictive ‘prisons’ are built on a solid foundation of rigid rules and assumptions of right and wrong, with walls of ‘should’s’ and ‘ought’s’ and ‘mustn’t’s’, strong bars of perfectionism, unbreakable locks of defeatism, and guards of arrogance on a constant duty to ‘be right’.
This description is so apt. I was trying to describe this very thing in my F post a couple of days ago and was struggling to put it into words. I have discovered over the past couple of years that letting go of the black and white thinking plays a huge part in jettisoning perfectionist tendencies. That, and humour. However it is so very easy to slip back into old comfortable habits, so one must be ever vigilant and practice conscious awareness.
One thing that has struck me already about this Challenge is that in writing about perfectionism, I am taking a rather hard line. I don’t mean too, but it generally reflects the hard line I am taking with myself for having not realised all of this sooner (more perfectionism???). On the surface, perfectionism seems to have served me well, but I am only just getting a true picture of what I have missed in being the perfect perfectionism practitioner.
It is only now, by letting my grey matter think in grey terms that I am seeing colour. And that seems to be the most ironic truth of all.
10 thoughts on “The I of Living Imperfectly: The Irony of the Perfectionist #atozchallenge”
When you have something to say…I listen.
I learned a quote a couple years ago that has stayed with me. It’s derived from a Voltaire quote: “Perfectionism is the enemy of done.” Very true. Helped me shift my mindset a bit.
Love your quote. I am now thinking of the song “Isn’t it Ironic?” It makes even more sense when viewed with this quote.
As perfectionism relates to relationships, I have found (later, rather than sooner, as you say) if I am less demanding of myself, I am gentler on Hub and not as apt to get frustrated with his way of doing things or the differences we might have about “good enough vs perfect”. After all, (I remind myself) he lives with a whole lot of my rather annoying habits. If I’m giving myself a break, I ought to give him one too.
I used to be a perfectionist and then I became the full time caregiver to a husband with end-stage Parkinson’s disease and two teenage grandchildren. Perfectionism had to take a back seat. Now we live in clutter and chaos…
I think that perfectionism doesn’t make so much sense in domains that foster or are based on subjective criteria.
For example I am a perfectionist when I plan and design technical infrastructure – and I think this is OK, it is more than justified, and above all it does not stress me out. It is very Zen to indulge in getting my code or designs or implementation plans right. This is like the proverbial bridge or the aeroplane built by hopefully overly perfectionist engineers.
That pseudo-perfectionism of, say, management consultants going for the perfect presentation or pitch to the customer or the obesssion with pseudo-objective metrics (you are never really accountable for, such as “customer satisfaction”) is not like that.
What I can say is that customers love me for that technical perfectionism as they outsource their risk to me – or they simply don’t want to deal with the nitty-gritty details… but I indulge in this… voluntarily.
Yes! Love the part about true perfection meaning enjoying the moment!
What a great line – by letting my grey matter think in grey terms that I am seeing colour. I believe in striving for excellence, but striving for perfection is guaranteed heartbreak.
Perfectionism can be both an asset and a burden, it helps you in some things, hinders you in others. The challenge is perhaps to figure out when it serves us and when not. For me, doing the A to Z is a great exercise, to have to push publish, also when I feel I wasn’t ready yet, hadn’t yet given it the best I had, etc.
I have been a perfectionist at work. But when i become mother, i felt as if sand is slipping through my hands more than i anticipated. Whatever i was doing is either insufficient or wrong or not bearing any fruit. I was hit by post partum depression in this pursuit of perfection and offcourse hormones taking their own way.
And i have learned it through my struggle of 8 months crying and trying to blame everybody around me for my condition is that, i am only responsible for my condition and to enjoy life should be the first priority.
A cribbing mother can never raise a happy child. I am happy go lucky because my mom must have given me priority than her pursuit of having a clean chick home and selvet figure.
One of my post too is dedicated for imperfection.
I am fat, Imperfect and Real Foodie.