In theory, perfectionism sounds like an awesome idea, but in reality, it is detrimental to your mental and emotional health. That is why I am not afraid to say that perfectionism is the dumbest standard on earth. Read on to find out how it can cause harm in the long run. Here is a list of reasons why I think perfectionism is the Dumbest standard on earth.
Perfectionism is Exhausting
Let me illustrate this point with an example. Alex invited Ben to go bike riding with him. Although reluctant, he decided to give it a try anyway. Alex and Ben biked together enjoying the beautiful scenery, talking and laughing. Ben found that it was very enjoyable. Therefore, he decided to do this every day with Alex.
A few weeks later, Alex got sick and was not able to go bike riding with Ben. Ben being the perfectionist that he is, decided to go anyway. He also decided to time himself, to see how long it takes. The first day he went, as usual, enjoying the view. It took him 40 minutes. The next day he decided to put more effort into it, so that he could cut down the time. He wanted to see how fast he can go. He put all of his energy into it and did not waste time looking around.
When he got back, he was tired, his legs were hurting but he knew that he did the best he could. So feeling proud, he checked the time to see how long it had taken him. It was 37 minutes. This shocked him. He gave up enjoying the view and put all his effort into paddling just to have saved 3 minutes. With his legs hurting, he only saved 3 minutes. Is it really worth it?
It is not achievable
No matter how hard you try, and how well you do, there is always a next level. Although you thought you wrote a perfect report when you submitted it, two days later there are at least a few things you wish you had done differently. Can you see how perfection is not achievable? It’s like the horizon, it seems real, but you can never reach it because it’s just an illusion.
It’s Highly Disappointing
Imagine, Putting a lot of hard work into something and feeling proud about what you have achieved. You know that this time it was perfect. Then someone with a different set of preferences tells you that it would have been better if it was done in a different way. “I think it will look better in blue”, he might say. Now you feel like a failure not because it is bad, but because it is not perfect. This is what creates disappointment.
Different people have different perspectives and different preferences. Therefore, you cannot please everyone. However, the perfectionist feels if something is perfect, everyone should like it. After all, why would anyone not like something that is perfect?
Perfectionism is Unrealistic
It is unrealistic because as mentioned above it is not achievable. You can get closer and closer to it, but, you can never achieve it. There is always something, no matter how small or insignificant, that would make it better. As I said before, it is an illusion. It is good in theory, but it is not reachable no matter how hard you try.
The bike riding example above is one example of the inefficiency caused by perfectionism. Compared to the energy you put in, you get minimum results. Here is another example. To get your report perfect it may take you several years, but someone else can write five different reports on five different topics at the same time.
Now compare the knowledge you gained by writing one report perfectly, to the knowledge the other person gained by writing five reports Imperfectly, and you will see that the other person has much more knowledge on various subjects compared to the perfectionist. That is why I say that perfectionism is an inefficient way of doing things.
It can be highly discouraging
When you strive for perfection you can only be happy if it is perfect. Even a small mistake is not acceptable. So after submitting your report if someone disagrees with you on something or provides feedback that would make it better you are likely to feel disappointed because your goal was perfection. Even if everyone thought your project was perfect it is a matter of time before you yourself see something that could have been improved and that will discourage you.
When your goal is perfection and this happens over and over again several hundreds of times it is highly likely that you give up doing things. You just don’t have the motivation to do anything because it will never be good enough in your standards. People think you are lazy, but in reality, you are just a perfectionist who has become discouraged due to your own unachievable standards.
Negatively affects your Self-esteem
When nothing you do is good enough, what will happen to your self-esteem? A single criticism makes you feel like a failure so of course, it will affect your self-esteem in a negative way. It is much more healthy to define a goal that is achievable. An example of such a goal is doing better than last time. This way you keep growing, but, you don’t get disappointed. Remember, there’s no such thing as perfection, there is always a next level. Therefore, you can never stop growing and you can never stop improving.
Imagine having a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a husband, a wife, a friend or a boss who is a perfectionist. Nothing you ever do is ever good enough for him. When you are feeling proud of your achievement he comes and points out flaws. Can you see how this kind of standard creates stress in a relationship? It’s practically impossible to be happy in a relationship with the person who is never satisfied. This person will wonder why everyone hates him when all he is trying to do is help them achieve perfection.
You may hesitate to start things or learn to procrastinate
When your goal is perfection and your work is never good enough you become discouraged. It starts to affect your self-esteem and you start thinking of yourself as a failure who can never achieve your goal. This is because you think there is something wrong with yourself rather than there is something wrong with the goal you are trying to achieve. Then you begin to wonder if there is a point in even trying to do something because you know deep down inside that you are never going to get this Perfect. As a result, you start to hesitate to do things and to keep procrastinating for as long as possible. In extreme cases, you might even be diagnosed with depression.
As mentioned in the bike riding example, you have to put in so much effort to even get close to perfection. You have to do so many things that others wouldn’t even consider doing just because your goal is perfection. To make things worse, you are never happy, with something that is less than perfect. This creates anxiety in your life. Having to do so much work creates enough anxiety by itself. Being your own critic adds to that anxiety followed by fear of failure and feeling not good enough. Later in life, these people can develop anxiety disorders such as OCD.
When you are trying to get things perfect, even a small disturbance, from someone else, can rile you up. Furthermore, no one else puts as much work into anything compared to you. You feel like you are the only one doing anything and you don’t have any time for yourself. This adds to your anger. If you ask someone else to do something and they do it, it is never good enough for you. That makes you angry at that person. You may even start doing things on your own without requesting any help. Those around you never offer their help because they know they can’t live up to your standards. As a result, you get even more angry.
Mental health issues
I mentioned this in the introduction and by this point I wonder if I need to even mention this again. I have already explained how it can cause depression, how it can cause anxiety, and how it can make you angry. Additionally, I also mentioned how it can affect your self-esteem in a negative way. Having low self-esteem is the root cause of any mental disorder. So anything that contributes to low self-esteem is not good in any way. The irony is, perfectionism, is a result of low self-esteem. You feel the need to do things perfectly to prove to yourself that you are worthwhile. But since this goal is not achievable it causes your self-esteem to drop even further sending you on a downward spiral.
So if you’re a perfectionist, what can you do to change this dangerous habit?
The first step is to understand the dangers of this lifestyle. After reading this you probably already have a basic idea about that. The next step is to understand that you cannot change overnight. This is going to take time. As a perfectionist, you may feel the need to get this perfect right away. Since that is not a realistic expectation you need to start expecting to get carried away with your old habits at least in the beginning.
Then do 1 thing imperfectly every day. Pick something you don’t consider very important in the beginning and ask yourself how much time does it take to do this? Set an alarm to go off at the end of the time period. When the alarm goes off your time is up. Stop doing it and go do something else. Having an alarm set forces you to get it done, without obsessing on unimportant details.
Pick one thing every day and continue doing this for at least 3 months and then you can try doing other things in the same manner. If you are lucky by the end of the three months you will see that you do not obsess over being perfect as much as you used to. Some people may need more time. If that is the case, you can try doing two things imperfectly from now on until it becomes ingrained in everything you do.