Ohhh to be PERFECTâ€¦but what is perfection? This depends not only on the topic at hand but also to theÂ individualÂ deeming the perfection. Tricky, right? It can be. Being aÂ perfectionistÂ can have its negative and positive connotations. Helpful in a creative life, skilled trade, career, sports, etc. Perfection can kill creativity. Perfection can also help create amazing works of art. Although we have to always remember the phrase â€œnobodyâ€™s perfectâ€, which in many cases is true. But again, who is awarding the perfection? Whatâ€™s my point? Perfectionists (myself included) need to lighten up!
I did a bit of Google digging on the subject and thought Iâ€™d share. I was surprised by the fact that there are psychological andÂ philosophical definitions for perfectionism, both quite different:
Perfectionism, inÂ psychology, is a belief that a state of completeness and flawlessness can and should be attained. In itsÂ pathologicalÂ form, perfectionism is aÂ beliefÂ that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable. At such levels, this is considered an unhealthy belief, andÂ psychologistsÂ typically refer to such individuals asÂ maladaptiveÂ perfectionists.
Hamachek describes two types of perfectionism.Â NormalÂ perfectionists â€œderive a very real sense ofÂ pleasureÂ from the labours of a painstaking effortâ€ whileÂ neuroticÂ perfectionists are â€œunable to feel satisfaction because in their own eyes they never seem to do things [well] enough to warrant thatÂ feelingÂ of satisfactionâ€. Burns defines perfectionists as â€œpeople who strain compulsively and unremittingly toward impossible goals and who measure their own worth entirely in terms of productivity and accomplishmentâ€.
Greenspon considers perfectionism to be a unitary combination of a desire to be perfect, a fear of imperfection, and an emotional conviction that perfection (not â€œnear-perfectionâ€) is the only route to personal acceptance by others. Perfectionism itself is thus never seen as healthy or adaptive.
InÂ ethicsÂ andÂ value theory,Â perfectionismÂ is theÂ persistenceÂ ofÂ willÂ in obtaining the optimal quality ofÂ spiritual,Â mental, physical, andÂ materialÂ being. TheÂ neo-AristoteleanÂ Thomas Hurkadescribes perfectionism as follows:
This moral theory starts from an account of the good life, or the intrinsically desirable life. And it characterizes this life in a distinctive way. Certain properties, it says, constitute human nature or are definitive of humanityâ€”they make humans human. The good life, it then says, develops these properties to a high degree or realizes what is central to human nature. Different versions of the theory may disagree about what the relevant properties are and so disagree about the content of the good life. But they share the foundational idea that what is good, ultimately, is the development of human nature.
The perfectionist does not believe that one can attain aÂ perfectÂ life or state of living. Rather, a perfectionist practices steadfast perseverance in obtaining the best possible life or state of living.
I personally dig the philosophical version of perfectionism myself, although I have traits of theÂ psychologicalÂ as well. We just canâ€™t let perfectionism hold us back. Our internal critics LOVE to use perfectionism as a tool against us, we just need to beÂ consciousÂ of it. Many of us feel our perfectionism helps us, although research indicates this isn't true. I challenge you to take a good hard look at where perfectionism may be holding you back in life.
- List all the things in life you strive for perfection (you can use instances within the previous month if this helps â€“ career, family, personal relationships, exercise, eating, art, etc.)
- Create a two-column Cost / Benefit grid so you can expand on each instance
- For Example: I strive to have the perfect blog posts â€“ the cost is undue stress to me and the very real resistance I get to writing because of this expectation. The benefit would be great posts which help readers and an inflated ego for ME.
That's it, take it easy on yourself. Don't beat yourself up over this stuff. Just be aware of it, good and bad. Focus on the positive and notice when you're being too critical of yourself and others. We can't get rid of our perfectionism overnight, but awareness of these traits can better turn them to allies instead of enemies.