You would think that an attitude of perfectionism would be a good thing for life. In theory, it should help you reach your goals and even surpass them. It should help you bring everything you want into your life. It should help you be happy, satisfied, and successful. But, I’ve found that living in a state of perfectionism actually does the opposite. It makes you downright miserable.
I don’t recommend you adopt a mentality of perfectionism in any area of your life. In fact, if I were to recommend one New Year’s goal to you, giving up on perfectionism would be it. Despite what your parents, friends, peers, or inner critic tells you, living for perfectionism is one of the worst ways to live.
Following are some of the ways perfectionism plays a negative role in your life. These are in no particular order as they are all equally detrimental to your happiness.
Perfectionism Causes Suffering
One study done in 2007 on Alaska suicides required friends and family members to describe their loved ones who had recently taken their own lives. According to 56% of the respondents, their loved ones were perfectionists. Furthermore, 25% of the respondents described them as strict or rigid.
Perfectionism is refusing to accept anything short of perfection in your life. It requires all of your attention on the matter or matters at hand. And because it requires all of your attention, you suffer in some way. Sometimes it’s obvious, and sometimes you just feel bad and can’t put your finger on it.
Perfectionism causes suffering because you will never be perfect and you will never accept that fact. You will constantly be reaching for something that you simply can’t reach and you will constantly be neglecting the things that truly matter – and truly make your life worth living – because of it.
Your relationships may suffer because you are too busy trying to be perfect, which causes you to suffer as you lose the comfort, support, and companionship that makes you feel so loved and important in life.
Your physical health may suffer if you are trying to accomplish something that requires a lot of mental power. You don’t have time to workout or look after yourself properly so your body starts to suffer and you lose much-needed energy and, in most cases, gain pain. Poor physical health makes it harder to do what you need to do and that causes mental anguish.
In fact, your mental health will almost definitely suffer in some way. You will beat yourself up when failures and setbacks happen. There is nobody who can make you feel as bad as YOU when you are not living up the perfection you are striving for!
In addition, you won’t take the time needed to rest your mind, stay present, meditate, and enjoy the moment, which will take away from your happiness. Remember, happiness doesn’t live in some moment in the future – it lives in the present when you are able to think and feel positively about what is happening.
In short, the next time you try to defend your need for perfectionism, ask yourself why you are defending suffering. Don’t be so quick to protect something that causes you suffering.
Perfectionism And A Happy And Fulfilling Life Will Never Go Together
If suffering is not painful enough for you, then maybe the idea of never really living life will be a deterrent to striving for perfectionism.
Life is full of flaws. It will never ever be perfect, so if you are demanding perfectionism in life, you will always be resisting life! You will always be working against life and living in some sort of fantasy world that you create for yourself.
Do you really want to spend your entire time on this planet not really living? Is that something you want to admit to yourself when you are about to die and reflect on what you did with your time? I’m willing to bet that you are shaking your head no right now, and I don’t blame you.
Life is for the living. And real living is all about going with the ups and downs because that’s a part of life.
A good and happy life comes to the people who are willing to change direction when need be because unexpected construction has blocked off a path or the road has just disappeared altogether. They don’t get upset. They just change direction.
It’s for the people who can accept that things don’t always work out the way they want it to and can bend and sway with the obstacles that come their way.
It’s for the people who understand that they simply don’t know where their next opportunity, relationship, or idea will come from and are able to keep their eyes open for those things rather than try to force something specific to come.
That last point is really important to remember. When you are focused on perfectionism, you are focused on a predetermined plan, and you can easily miss out on the random things in life that are not a part of that plan.
For instance, if you are focused on perfectionism, you may be focused on a specific type of person to be in a relationship with. You may have plans to marry that person, have two kids by the age of 30, and then have a perfectly happy life. But, if you try to make that plan happen exactly the way you envision it, you may miss out on a relationship that makes you happier than you’ve ever been before.
A friend of mine lived this. She is a Christian, and she envisioned her life with a very specific Christian man. He needed to look a certain way, act a certain way, and have certain beliefs and desires, including the desire to have three kids before the age of 25. She found him at her church and even though she felt strongly drawn to another man who didn’t fit her perfect plan, she married the ‘perfect man’ because her perfectionism demanded it. Unfortunately, that man, like life, had some hidden surprises for her. He was addicted to pornography and after they had three kids together, she found out. She started to work hard to recreate the perfect life she thought she had with him, and she was suffering in all areas of her life because she refused to accept anything short of her ideal perfect life. For ten years she resisted life and found herself living in a fantasy world. Eventually, she woke up, realized that life was never going to go in the straight line she wanted, and she left that man without a plan of what would happen next.
The real sad part is the man that she was drawn to so many years ago had taken his own life a few years prior to her leaving her husband. She would never know what could have happened if she had just followed her heart instead of her need for the perfect (or what she thought would be perfect) life.
The point is that you don’t know what will make you happiest in life. You don’t know what will be the most fulfilling thing for your life. You can guess, but if you think that you know and then try to create the perfect image that you have in your head, there is a strong possibility that you are going to be disappointed.
Follow your heart instead of an idea of ‘what should be’. Follow your passions. Follow the trail that really excites you. It may change once in a while, and that’s OK. As long as you follow a path that feels right, you will find yourself in the happiest place you can be.
Demanding Perfectionism In Relationships Is How To Create Miserable Relationships
My friend is a great example of why perfectionism in relationships doesn’t work. You simply don’t have control over the other person, so demanding that they be perfect – according to your definition of perfect – is completely unrealistic and will always disappoint you and make you miserable.
I’m not just talking about demanding how they should act in your relationship. I’m talking about demanding that your partner becomes a certain person, have certain beliefs, and act in a certain way until you say otherwise. Humans are not robots and cannot be controlled that way.
Moreover, as people grow, their perceptions towards life can change. Therefore, demanding that someone stay the same for their entire life is unrealistic and will cause a lot of struggle in a relationship.
This is the truth of many parent/kid relationships. The parent thinks their kid is perfect because they are doing everything the parent wants them to do. Then, suddenly, the kid realizes that they have different ideas of what is fun, right, or interesting in life than their parents, so they try to engage in different things. Their parents resist the change in their perfect little child, the kid struggles to just be themselves while pleasing their parents at the same time, and the relationship suffers because of it. If parents were able to let their kid become the person they want to be, whether it lives up to their expectations of the perfect life or not, then their relationship would have much less struggle and much more happiness.
Perfectionism Drives Procrastination
One of the most disturbing truths about perfectionism is that it causes procrastination. In other words, perfectionism slows you down your life! You are not able to achieve as much as you want to in life as quickly as you could if you were able to go with the flow.
I know this firsthand. I used to own some pretty popular blogs that were doing very well for me. I had worked for two years on them. But, they weren’t living up to my perfect business plan. In fact, they had deviated so far from the perfectionism I demanded that I decided to sell the blogs and start over!
At that time, I thought that I needed to start over so I could create the perfect business, but now I see that I simply put myself back two years in my business. I could have improved the blogs, adapted to what I had learned, and moved forward with better and stronger blogs. The years of work I had put into place would have kept working for me – perfect or not, but all that effort I put into them was wasted as soon as I sold and gave up any success they were having.
Whether you are talking about business, happiness, fulfillment, relationships, or anything else, perfectionism will cause procrastination as you start over or try to get it perfect. You will spend too much time trying to make your life happen in a certain way and you will delay the results you want.
Perfectionism Is A Setup For Wasted Failure
Failure is an important part of life. At its simplest, it teaches you what not to do in the future for success. You learn from your failures and your mistakes, and that knowledge helps you build a happier, stronger, more successful life.
A perfectionist doesn’t accept failure for what it is – a lesson. They see it as a sign they were not working hard enough or being their best, and then they either give up completely because they wanted it to be perfect or they keep banging their head against the wall doing the same thing over and over again because they don’t learn their lesson from the failure. Either way, the failure – the lesson – is wasted on them, and that further holds them back from the success they want.
Perfectionism Will Never Allow You To Be Enough
You are perfect the way you are. Your faults and imperfections in life are what make you unique, and your uniqueness is what adds something interesting to this world.
But, when you are focused on perfectionism, you will never see yourself as good enough. You will always be ashamed of who you are, because you are not living up to what you think you should be, and that lack of confidence in yourself will further affect your life in a miserable way.
Please remember that being perfect doesn’t equal being worthy. You are worthy of being happy right now. You are worthy of people loving you and respecting you right now. You are worthy of being noticed as a great human being right now and always.
How To Make Life Awesome Instead Of Miserable
You will find that when you let go of perfectionism and just focus on doing the best you can at every moment, you will value yourself much more. That value you place on yourself will help you achieve more than you would ever dream of achieving as you focus on perfectionism, and it will allow you to be happier than you could ever be striving for perfection.
In short, doing the best you can at every moment as opposed to perfectionism is what will make your life awesome. Being a good person. Making the best decisions possible. Choosing to enjoy what’s happening rather than control it. All of those things contribute to a great life and give you many more rewards that perfectionism ever could. So ditch the need for perfectionism once and for all!