There are numerous reasons why you shouldn’t strive for perfection.
Perfection is unattainable to us mere mortals. Perfection is a myth created by influencers that don’t want their audience to see the harsh realities of life. Striving for perfection can harm our mental health, relationships, and careers.
Let’s work through why you shouldn’t strive for perfection together.
Table of Contents:
In the CBT workbook for Perfectionism by Sharon Martin, Martin defines perfectionism as “the quest to be perfect or without flaws.”
This quest often manifests itself in our lives as impossible to attain goals, living life without making mistakes, or as feelings of worthlessness, distress, and even anger in some instances.
Most scholars agree that striving for perfection is not only an unattainable goal but a foolish one that often leaves people hollow and disappointed.
More often than not, we tend to compare ourselves to people performing at the height of their fields.
This comparison creates the misconception that the people we look up to never fail in anything they attempt. Thus, if we want to achieve what they have achieved, then we must be perfect.
In a study in the Journal of Counseling Psychology in 2003, researchers identified two possible traditions of perfectionism.
The first tradition emphasized interpersonal processes and conceptualized perfectionism from a multidimensional personality framework that separates self-expectations and perfectionistic interpersonal dynamics into three distinct personality traits, these being (1)self-oriented, (2)other-oriented, and (3)socially prescribed perfectionism.
The second tradition emphasizes the cognitive process and conceptualizes perfectionism under a unidimensional framework that treats the perfectionist’s self-expectations as a unitary cognitive style.
All this is to say that researchers are getting closer to modeling perfectionism within understandable and workable models that can improve the lives of people who have become enamored by the drive to be perfect.
Link Between Perfectionism and Depression
In P. L. Hewitt and G. L. Flett’s (1991b) model of perfectionism dimensions, the researchers found that not only did perfectionism have an attitudinal component (e.g., believing that making mistakes is unacceptable), perfectionism also included a motivational component (e.g., an insatiable need to be perfect), and a behavioral component (e.g., requiring that your work, or the work of others, be flawless).
According to the research, people who have a perfectionistic attitude are at a much higher risk of developing clinical depression than those who don’t show these same characteristics.
Developing depression because you want everything to be perfect is one of the biggest reasons not to strive for perfection.
7 Challenges Perfectionists Face
When we strive for perfection, multiple facets of our lives get impacted. Everything from our professional careers to our living environment gets affected.
Let’s look at each of these areas in more detail.
1. Professional Career
The label “workaholic” describes perfectionists who have to be the greatest at what they do, no matter the cost. They work to earn promotions, win the most prominent awards, be top salespeople, and dream of running the company one day.
There is nothing inherently wrong with these noble pursuits.
The problem for the perfectionist is that these goals become unattainable when their need to make every step on their journey perfect.
They don’t allow for mistakes or leave room for improvement. Everything has to be perfect from the get-go.
It would’ve been fine if striving for perfection ended with your personal goals.
However, if you aren’t careful, you’ll quickly expect perfection from your whole family. Your wife has to be the perfect wife. Your children have to excel and be perfectly obedient.
You put undue pressure on your family by setting unrealistic expectations.
3. Physical Health
Unless you are a dedicated bodybuilder, striving for physical perfection is nearly impossible.
Life is too busy to count every calorie or spend ten to twelve hours in the gym daily.
Unless you can accept the things you can’t change, perfection will always feel like it is just out of your reach.
4. Academic Performance
People with perfectionist tendencies will always criticize themselves when they aren’t the best performer in the class.
They have to be valedictorian, or they feel completely worthless, and their whole future is in jeopardy.
5. Sporting Careers
Striving for perfection keeps you from enjoying sports as a hobby. If you are going to compete, then you have to win gold. Otherwise, what’s the point, right?
If your team doesn’t win, you will always blame your teammates for not making you the team’s captain and following your orders to the letter.
Pressure like this creates unnecessary tension between you and your teammates.
6. Living Environment
We would all like a tidy office and a clean home, but every inch needs to be spotless for the person striving for perfection.
Every pen and pencil needs to be in its labeled place at precisely 90 degrees. Otherwise, they will accomplish nothing that day.
Striving for the perfect living environment will keep you from doing what you want and need to do to have a happy, balanced life.
Striving for perfection causes one to want to portray the perfect life.
All your social media posts, interaction, and experience must seem scripted and executed perfectly to your friends, family, and acquaintances.
Otherwise, they might suspect your life isn’t perfect, which is a big problem.
How To Stop Yourself From Striving For Perfection
Striving for perfection isn’t worth it. The problems of needing to be perfect far outweigh any perceived benefits of living a “perfect” life.
Here are a few ways to stop yourself from trying to strive for perfection.
Give Yourself Some Room To Be Imperfect
Don’t be your own worst critic. Give yourself some room to be imperfect from time to time. Learn the values of failure, and appreciate the process.
Striving for perfection keeps you from loving and enjoying all the progress you have already made.
Allowing yourself some room to grow will inevitably lead you to greater heights. Don’t beat yourself up when you only manage to be seventy percent successful.
Take the remaining thirty percent as a sign that there is more to learn and a better way of approaching that problem the next time you encounter it.
Work With A Therapist
Therapy could be a tremendous help to those who constantly strive for perfection.
A therapist can help guide you, equip you to deal with your issues, and help you see the flaws in perfectionism that you might be too blind to see.
Therapists deal with a wide range of complex mental health conditions regularly. A session or two might enlighten you that you aren’t the first person to feel this way or face these challenges.
Work with them and be diligent in following their advice. Before you know it, you’ll be in a much better place.
Set Realistic Goals
Striving for perfection keeps us from setting realistic goals for ourselves and our careers. Try taking a step back and re-evaluating your current goals.
Are they attainable? Is the timeline you set realistic? Is what you’re attempting even feasible in the first place?
Ask yourself these questions every so often.
Setting realistic goals will significantly improve your mental health as you learn to deal with your shortcomings.
Write down some positive affirmations to help keep you motivated.
Journal a few motivational quotes or leave sticky notes sprawled around the house reminding you that it is okay to fail, not to be perfect, and to try again.
Enveloping yourself with positivity will help keep you going when you feel overwhelmed by your need to do everything perfectly.
Final Thoughts On Avoiding Perfection
If you’re a perfectionist, chances are you experience a lot of stress and anxiety daily. You might feel like you can never do anything right or that you’re not good enough.
But it’s important to remember that nobody is perfect – striving for perfection can harm your mental and physical health.
Suppose you want to learn how to stop being a perfectionist.
In that case, there are some things you can do, including giving yourself room to be imperfect, working with a therapist, setting realistic goals, and staying motivated.
Use these tips to improve your life and reduce the amount of stress you feel daily.