Being a perfectionistic is sometimes thought of as a good thing. After all, shouldn’t you focus on doing something correctly instead of being careless or doing it the wrong way? Having a high standard for yourself can indeed inspire you to accomplish great things.
However, there’s in an inherent problem with being a perfectionist: nobody is perfect.
Doing your best whenever possible helps you to grow, but sometimes people aren’t able to do their best. When that happens, when you’re tired or sick or just too unfocused to accomplish what you want to, this self-imposed standard to be perfect can become harmful rather than motivational.
There is also a problem with subjectivity, which perfectionists often struggle with. With many activities, there is no such thing as perfect because perfect is too subjective. There is always something to “pick apart” and always something that you can change. Even your own opinion of perfect may change so often that you’re continually looking for a version of perfect that is not there.
It Is Impossible to Be Perfect – So What’s Possible?
Since it’s impossible for anyone to actually be perfect, the steps you need to take to reach your goal are difficult to define or follow. “Perfection” is like a moving target that is ultimately unattainable which in turn makes what we want to do seem unattainable, even if it isn’t.
For example, it’s entirely possible for most people to learn how to paint. You can become a very good painter by learning about color theory, the basics of figure drawing, and other fundamental aspects of art. But what does it even mean to be “perfect” at painting?
Always making beautiful paintings?
Accurately reproducing your subject in a highly realistic style, like a photograph?
Showcasing your talents in a unique way?
Even those standards would probably be contested by different viewers and artists. The point is: the question of what a perfect result of any kind of effort can probably be answered differently from person to person.
Striving for perfection creates an “all or nothing” mindset, making it harder to recognize when and how you’re actually improving and getting closer to your goals. Evidence of gradual progression and small achievements are difficult to notice if the only thing you’re looking for is the ideally completed end point. As a result it can make you feel like you’re not making any progress at all, like you’re actually only failing.
What Can You Do?
The pressure to be perfect can bring about the opposite of what you’re working towards by reinforcing your insecurities rather than your strengths.
- Don’t give in to the worry that your efforts aren’t producing exactly what you want them to when you want them to.
- Don’t let your need to be some unrealistic definition of perfect keep you from growing. Instead, adopt a standard of “good enough,” and realize that some progress is better than none.
- Allow that to empower you to make consistent efforts towards improvements in yourself and in your relationships with others.
If you find that perfectionism is impacting your life in some form, contact our Long Island psychologists, today.