in Cognitive Wisdom

Are you a perfectionist?

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If you are, do you consider it to be a positive quality?

Perfectionism, despite sounding positive, isn’t worth pursuing. It’s different than striving to be your best, and is definitely unrelated to self-improvement. Rather, it revolves around the fundamental fear of shame. Let me explain.

Perfectionism, in short, is the belief that, if we live, look and act perfect, then we’ll be able to shield ourselves from criticism, judgment or blame. This shield, in other words, is supposed to protect us against shame.

However, life as a perfectionist is emotionally unhealthy, because it makes our own self-worth dependent on approval or acceptance from others. Not only is perfectionism unhealthy, but it’s also addictive and self-destructive. In fact, perfectionism is futile, as perfection itself is illusory!

The perfectionists’ mindset, however, doesn’t recognise these traps. Instead, whenever they inevitably fail to achieve perfection, perfectionists blame themselves for their inability, and tell themselves to “do better,” regardless of whether that’s actually possible.
They become, in effect, addicted to perfection.

Perfectionism can also lead to life paralysis, i.e., the inability to put oneself out into the world, due to fear of imperfection. People suffering from life paralysis might, for instance, be unable to send that email to someone they admire out of fear it won’t be well received, or might leave their writings unpublished out of fear of criticism.

Whatever may be your creation, believe me, the finished product is always going to be perfectly imperfect and entirely unique. And beautiful.

Even if you think you’ve failed at the things you’ve set out to accomplish, I challenge you to look at those “failures” from a different perspective. You’ve created something—something where there was nothing. Maybe that supposed “failed” something taught you how to do that thing a little differently the next time.

Or maybe you just had to try that thing one time to know whether or not it was THE thing for you. And maybe, just maybe, the thing that you failed at proved to be a source of inspiration for somebody else.

So, you see, there’s really no such thing as perfection. It’s simply about having new experiences that enhance our lives and make us feel good.

Embrace your imperfections and you will go far. You’ll probably enjoy yourself a whole lot more in the process, too.

Luckily, we can avoid the constraints of perfectionism by simply being honest about our fear of shame and by reminding ourselves to do things for ourselves rather than for others.

So the next time you want to get fit, for example, don’t let others’ opinion of you and your body be your motivation. Instead, tell yourself that exercise and a healthy diet will make you feel better and healthier, and that your success or failure in getting fit won’t affect your worth as a person.

Therefore it’s paramount that you don’t seek perfection in life. Life does not become beautiful because you are perfect, life becomes beautiful because you put your heart into everything that you do. Life is never going to be perfect because whichever way you may be functioning right now, you could always bring in a little more of improvement.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to life’s possibilities for someone with a Growth mindset rather than a Perfectionist mindset. They believe that they can learn more with hard work, dedication and perseverance. Moreover, they want to feel the satisfaction of pushing themselves to the limits of their growth potential. Whether music or sports, writing or drawing, they practice relentlessly and are quite aware that it is only through practice – and the occasional failure – that they can improve their skills. They reconsider and discard strategies used in the past, and are always thinking about how they can eradicate their faults and weaknesses.

In their relationships, they encourage their partners to continue learning and working on themselves. When they play sports, they play knowing that they are serving the team. When they run a business, they show their employees respect, are grateful for their work, and ask for their honest opinions on things, however inconvenient the truth may be. People with a growth mindset welcome problems and see them as challenges, not insurmountable obstacles. They willingly put their energy into bettering themselves and the world around them.

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  1. Greta article Piyush. definitely thought provoking.
    I believe too that being a perfectionist could be emotionally unhealthy.

    I am not sure about the shame part. I don’t think perfectionism is always fueled by shame. Its could be because of love on that subject. It could be because they were inspired by a person who was a perfectionist. and as long as perfectionism does not get out of control you could produce excellent (pretty much better than others) creations. I think at that stage we call them detail oriented. and then there is a very fine line between detail oriented and perfectionist.

    Also, a perfectionists need not be a perfectionist in everything in life. just the things they choose to be perfect on. It that case, we can clearly see that its not the shame thats driving them. but something else.

    -An avid imperfectionist (I know its not a word, but as long as you get it, who wants to be perfect 🙂 ).

    • Ashu…I am glad that you found the post thought provoking. We all can very well afford to be an incorrigible imperfectionist but with a Growth mindset. I am waiting for your valuable comments on other posts too.