Have you ever come across an individual who, in your eyes, is ‘perfect’? That one individual always has the most neatly ironed clothes, the most perfectly combed hair, and that flawless smile. This individual may be physically “perfect” and continually comes first in class or is awarded the month’s employee. This idea of perfectionism is admired and celebrated, as you may often find yourself envious and trying to be ‘that’ person. We live in a society where we strive to attain perfectionism while instilled with the values that ‘failure is not an option. However, have you ever questioned how ‘that’ person you admire views themselves?
Perfection looks and means different things to different individuals. What seems like perfection to one may not to another. In this manner, perfectionism is a mere state of mind. In an attempt to define the term, ironically, we fail to realist that it is devoid of a particular definition. Perfection is influenced by feelings, points of view, and perceptions of individuals. In this way, it is not tangible. Society has instilled this idea of perfectionism into children from a young age, pushing and pushing to achieve it. Artists might find perfection in great strokes, athletes may find it in the fittest training technique, singers in reaching the right pitch, and scientists in sources of discovery. Unfortunately, one of our society’s flaws is that we view this highly subjective term as objective.
Psychology recognizes ‘perfectionism’ as a personality trait that makes each day an endless cycle of critique. Extreme cases of perfectionism can be toxic to individuals facing them. It leads to a single-pointed view on avoiding failure at all costs, leaving no room for improvement and overall negative orientation. These unrealistically high expectations can, in some cases, cause obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They also include compulsive behaviours and anxiety. Psychologists note an increase in this desire is amplified and caused by childhood experiences and social media, often displaying a false reality. In this way, the pathological form of perfectionism can be very damaging and self-deprecating. It can lead to mental health problems including eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.
On the one hand, the pathological side of perfectionism can be dangerous, whereas the trait provides certain assets. One of the most prominent benefits of being a perfectionist is that it creates a strong work ethic. This work ethic makes one strive and maximizes workplace productivity, finding a certain sense of self-fulfilment. Another boon of perfectionism is that its self-critical nature makes an individual attentive to each detail and also promotes diligence, care, and persistence at work. Along with this, perfectionists also have the trait of convergent thinking, enabling one to solve a problem with its correct solution without giving up. In this way, when there is a healthy degree of perfectionism, it can lead to excelling in the academic sphere and work environment.
Unhealthy perfectionism tends to rob you of your peace, self-esteem, and carefree spirit in life. As mentioned above, there are two sides; the pathological side and the beneficial ones. Letting go of extreme spheres and maintaining a healthy balance is a difficult task. However, it is important to take baby steps to overcome this constant need for perfectionism. Here are ways you can create a balance and start overcoming the pathological perfectionist tendencies:
Become Aware and Introspect. In social settings, it is common for individuals to use perfectionism as a badge of honour. However, take a moment to introspect if your perfectionism is pervasive. Once you are aware of the harmful perfectionist tendencies, you will be able to alter them.
Direct your energy on the positive instead of the negative. Perfectionists usually look for faults in themselves or their work. The next time you point out a flaw, replace that with crediting yourself before criticizing.
Welcome constructive criticism, rather than avoiding it, it is common for individuals to take criticism as an attack leading to a sudden defensive response. However, feedback and constructive criticism only better your performance and outcome.
In many ways, ’ perfection is a lie. It is an incessantly reoccurring phenomenon yet futile. It makes individuals strive for an unreachable goal, with no room for self-care, no time for happiness, and no space for pure humanness. Do societies’ standards of perfectionism encourage individuals or demoralize them? The word in itself often boosts breakdowns and burnouts, causing unrewarding and frustrating situations. It is in your hands where you want to use this so-called ‘perfect’ goal as a motivating force or allow it to burn you out mentally and physically. Remember, perfection can be photoshopped and fictionally curated. However, imperfection is a reality.
Today, take a look into your reality, the same way you look up to someone’s ‘perfect’ image. Let us break this vicious cycle of inferiority complex and OWN yourself, your flaws, and your ‘imperfections’. Allow and embrace failure, since once you go low, it is always followed by a soaring high.