There is nothing wrong with striving for excellence in your career, life, relationships and so on. But if you feel that less than 100 per cent is not good enough, you may be setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointments.
Most people strive for success, which means they enjoy the process of getting there and the end result, learning form the mistakes they make along the way. Perfectionists, on the other hand, only focus on achieving the goals. Often plagued by low self-esteem, they try and avoid situations in which they will make mistakes and therefore lose out on valuable opportunities to learn and grow. Psychologists agree that the price for perfection is high and can range from depression to obsessive ness, performance anxiety, social anxiety and loneliness. It has also been identified as a central feature in eating disorders.
Because perfectionists are sensitive and vulnerable, they often react defensively when being criticised. When they expect the same high standards from those around them, they can be critical, impatient and demanding.
Some thoughts on finding better balance
Recognise that you are trying to be a perfectionist. It is a bad habit that could interfere disastrously with your career, relationships and health. Look at the four main areas of your life, yourself, work or studies, relationships and social activities, and decide which area need changes for you to achieve a balance. Distinguish between important and less important tasks. Instead of aiming for 100 per cent all the time, 90, 70 or even 60 per cent will often be fine as well. If your boss comes over for dinner it may be necessary to prepare a gourmet meal, maybe, but for your normal friends, a simple meal will surely do. Learn to measure your success against the sheer enjoyment of the process and not just the end result.
Perfection is not only “the obstacle to finished” but it can be a real mental health problem when we feel that only-perfect-will-do. There is nothing wrong with trying hard and seeking the best possible outcomes, but a healthy dose of realism is needed too. It’s a question of balance ultimately. If you find it difficult to make changes in your life, around perfection or other things, please consider seeking professional help.
Author: Dr Colin Burns, retired medical practitioner and wellness coach