Being perfect can be viewed as a positive quality by some people. A perfectionist will keep trying to improve what they are doing so that the final product is as perfect as can be. Although improving ourselves as persons and the work that we do is something positive, perfectionism can create a lot of distress in a person’s life. In the different roles that we have, we may constantly seek to be perfect such as; wanting to be perfect wife, husband, partner, friend, daughter, son, parent, employee, friend and the list goes on. We need to ask ourselves “when will it be enough to feel satisfied and fulfilled?” If we keep chasing perfection, it will be very difficult to answer this question. It is also important to be aware that when we compare ourselves with other people who we perceive as being perfect, we create expectations of how we should be. This way of being may be unattainable.
When a perfectionist makes a mistake, it is considered as a failure rather than a learning experience. Thus, they can be very critical towards themselves which affects negatively the person’s self-esteem and self-worth. When a person sets high goals and they are not achieved, the person will feel frustrated and disappointed with themselves.
Perfectionism can occur in many different settings such as at home, at work and during leisure activities e.g. sports. A mother who also works outside the house may want to have the perfect house, clean and tidy. Having young children, this is close to impossible and therefore that mother my feel overwhelmed that she is not doing a good job. She may also have less time to spend with the kids and feels guilty that she is not being the perfect mother to them.
When the perfectionist creates a lot of pressure onto themselves, it can have a negative impact on their mental health developing disorders such as depression and anxiety. If you have the tendency to want to be perfect, the following tips can help you live a meaningful life without such a stressor.
- Try your best – Whatever role you may be in or activity trying to accomplish, think about being and doing the best that you can. Avoid thinking of being or achieving perfection. In the end, what is perfection?
- Reflect – Finding time to reflect is very important in life as it provides you with an opportunity to think about your life, to appreciate, be grateful and to change what you do not like. Think about goals that you set and assess whether they are goals which can be attained or if they are too high to reach.
- Be kind to yourself – When something goes wrong, tell yourself that it is okay, you can learn from all experiences in life and try again next time. You cannot always get it right, so accept that you have your own limitations too. Engage in positive self-talk rather than harsh criticism towards yourself.
- Seek professional support – Experiences you encountered in your life (e.g. having critical parents) may have led you to become a perfectionist and believing that you are not good enough. Thus, you may need to work with a professional therapist to help you work through such issues so that you can free yourself from these thoughts.