Nanice Ellis | Wake Up World
Perfectionism is sneaky – on the surface it sounds like it could be a good thing. After all, what’s wrong with perfection?
It is true that perfectionism is a strategy for success, but when you measure success by your ability to be consistently perfect, success is perpetually out of reach. The strategy of perfectionism, sooner or later, does the opposite of what it was intended to do.
If you look closely you will see that, like a wolf in sheep’s clothes, perfectionism is just another name for self-judgment. In the name of perfection, we give ourselves permission to be self-critical and undermining every time we fall short. Never quite meeting our own standards of perfection, because good is not good enough, we become our own worst enemies. If there is such a thing as perfect, and we believe that we must live up to this unrealistic ideal in order to succeed, we set ourselves up for perpetual disappointment, failure and maybe even depression.
Why perfectionism is a terrible strategy for success…
Perfectionism is a Moving Target: If somehow you do reach the state of perfection, you will likely discover that there are still improvements to make, and what you thought would be perfect is full of unanticipated flaws – which, of course, must be corrected in order to really reach the perfect state. Perfectionism is a moving target, because what is perfect one day, may not be perfect the next. There is always another level, and, always, something more to perfect.
Sorting for Imperfection: Perfectionism makes you notice everything that is not perfect. If you are seeking perfection, you will not see perfection; you will see everything that is not up to par. When we are driven by perfectionism, we develop laser beam focus designed to pinpoint every aspect of imperfection. Even the slightest imperfection will stand out like a sore thumb, and, in fact, that may be all we notice; 99% of our work may be excellent by all standards, but, we only notice that 1% that isn’t. Even a slight imperfection impedes our ability to celebrate our work, and experience fulfillment. In this way, perfectionism is in conflict with peace and happiness. If our results are never good enough, we will never feel the deep satisfaction and joy that comes from a job well-done.
Perfectionism Creates Procrastination: Some might say that perfectionism motivates them to do their best, and this could be true, but, it also generates a tremendous amount of stress and pressure, which can contribute to procrastination. If your goal is perfection, and you criticize yourself for not measuring up, it might be a great deal harder to get started in the first place.
Impeding Inspiration: Inspiration is a result of our connection to Spirit. If we are judging ourselves in the name of perfection, we disconnect from the Source that inspires, cutting ourselves off from any possibility of Divine Perfection. When we are driven by perfectionism, we allow our fragile egos to run the show, and the result is action, or reaction, that is void of real and authentic meaning, and, in our attempt to control the process, or the outcome, we disconnect from the rhythm of the Universe and we block the flow.
Fear of Failure Causes Inhibition: It usually takes going out of your comfort zone in order to create a life that is most fulfilling and joyful, but the need perfection makes that comfort zone even smaller and more limited. Because perfectionism is driven by a fear of failure, if you are afraid to fail, you may avoid taking chances on things involving a learning curve, or that require feedback from experience. This means that you might base your life on the “sure thing” and never realize your potential for innovation and creativity.
Suppression is the Name of the Game: When we believe that anything less than perfect is not worthwhile, we limit our creativity and we suppress what might have been a brilliant work of art. The unfolding years show us that if you are waiting to produce perfection, you will never frame that painting or publish that book. How often do your standards of perfection keep you from expression?
Perfection is Subjective: Who is to say what is perfect anyway? Perfection is subjective, and what is perfect to one person is far from perfect to another. This is especially apparent when it comes to physical beauty. The perfect body in one culture is “too this” or “not enough that” in another. If you live in a culture where you can never be too thin, you might be surprised to find that other cultures consider a more rounded physique to be most desirable. Go to any renaissance museum and you will see that voluptuous women were the preferred subject of art and sculpture, because they were considered the most perfect.
A Matter of Worth: If you look even closer, you will see that there is a huge connection between perfectionism and self-worth. Perfectionism is a strategy to gain a sense of worthiness, but the conditions are usually so high and difficult to meet that the attainment of self-worth never comes. When your sense of worth is entangled with being perfect and/or producing perfect results, you must meet your self-imposed conditions in order to feel worthy. Even if you are able to meet your own standards of perfection, the sense of worth doesn’t last long, and you will need another perfect accomplishment in order to sustain or regain feelings of worth. Perfectionism is often an excuse to beat yourself up.