The Dangers of Trying to be Perfect

Striving for excellence motivates you. Striving for perfection is demoralizing.– Harriet B. Braiker

Are you a perfectionist? Does everything have to be perfect before you are happy?

If this describes you, then you are setting yourself up for failure, because no one is perfect … thank goodness.

Can you imagine a world without mistakes? Not only would it be boring, but none of us would grow. As Harriet Braiker says, striving for excellence can motivate you to achieve great things. But trying to be perfect? You will be disappointed every minute of every day.

What drives some of us to attempt perfection 24/7? A more insightful question would be, why are we so afraid of making mistakes?

It all comes down to the fear of being judged by others. We feel that if we are perfect, no one will criticize us. If we are perfect, we will be loved.

Yet who are you kidding? What is YOUR reaction when you meet “perfect” people who can do no wrong? Do you admire them? Maybe. Do you want to hang with them? Probably not. The joy of life is that it is messy, and unpredictable, and keeps us on our toes. Chasing the illusion that we can be perfect is depressing, and a waste of time.

I’ve made SO MANY MISTAKES throughout my life. Typos, wrong test answers, choosing the wrong food on the menu – not to mention my kitchen disasters. But I wouldn’t be Lori Baker-Schena without those missteps. They are a part of me. They define me.

So how do you kick the perfection habit? Henrik Edberg provides six great suggestions in The Positivity Blog:

1.     Go for good enough. This isn’t an excuse to slack off from a project. But it does help you avoid procrastination by trying to be perfect. Embrace your “good enough” by striving for your “personal best” and then moving on to the next project.

2.     Realize that you hurt yourself and the people around you by buying into the myths of perception.  If you continually try to be perfect, you are setting unrealistically high expectations that can only lead to disappointment and pain for everyone involved. It is in your power to stop this pain.

3.     Accept that you are human and so is everyone else. Life is messy and unpredictable. And the ability to cope with these challenges makes us human.

4.     Compare yourself to yourself. Stay internally motivated and focus on improving your personal best. Avoid trying to live up to the external pressures of what is perceived as perfect. It is a no-win situation.

5.     Do what you think is the right thing. Be guided by your own compass.

6.     Surround yourself with others who also understand the dangers of perfectionism. Spend more time with people who don’t stress about being perfect – they, too, just want to do their very best.

Give yourself a break and stop trying to be perfect. It’s a more joyous, less stressful way to live.