As I watched sadly the story of the young man unfold, I was reminded of the many times I and many others have used the word perfectionist to describe ourselves. We have worn it proudly as a badge of honor, because of the story it tells others about us. Not realizing as parents and a society we are responsible for how perfectionism is perceived, what it makes of our kids, those who look up to us and the society at large. Perfectionism has its great and not so great implications as it was evident in the story of this young man who, ended his life for being second best in his class. Perfectionists are not born they are made.
“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake ,of disappointing others, of failure. Fear of success.” Michael Law. So, how do we end this madness and the blind race to perfection? Where do we draw the line between what we model and encourage as the healthy reasonable strive to great achievements and unhealthy strive to acquire flawlessness?
Is perfection what really matters or is good enough good enough? In my quest to learn, I discovered that perfectionism is categorized into two types. The high achievers; the people who we consider experts, exceptionally talented and even geniuses have been known to exhibit perfectionist tendencies. These are individuals who have gone above and beyond, pushed through barriers to be the best in what they do.
They demand higher standards of themselves, continuously strive for excellence and obsessively pay attention to details to achieve what many consider extraordinary. We admire, emulate them and we consider them as great role models. However, they also understand that failure is part of the quest and instead of being fixated on mistakes they learn from them. This is what psychologists call adaptive perfectionism.
The second type is evident when the sense of self-worth is derived from the outcome of the work. So, the individual personalizes failure and sinks into depression when they fail to reach the targeted results. They are also very critical of themselves and everyone else around them for failing to reach set standards. Sometimes, they fail to complete tasks because they spend too much time perfecting. This type of perfectionism is called maladaptive; in which individuals also have tendencies for depression, anxiety, fixation on mistakes and even suicide.
With the information acquired and having had a glimpse of what the confusion between perfection and excellence can do. Its up to us to ensure that as parents, role models and the society at large we do not become enslaved by this quest for flawlessness but, instead model a healthy strive for excellence by;
- Taking note of how perfection is perceived by yourself and those around you.
- Understanding that perfection is a moving target and yes, it’s unattainable.
- Set attainable goals and be spontaneous
- Letting go the fear of making mistakes instead using them as a ground to learn.
- Celebrating the small victories along the way.
- Learning to enjoy the process of progress
- Realizing that it’s ok to be imperfect and it doesn’t make you any lesser.
If you like this post and are interested to learn more, linked are resources I found very informative.
Be inspired to live your best life every day.