Perfectionism. The word that breaks or makes a person strive to reach the top of their game. The dictionary states perfectionism as the ‘refusal to accept any standard short of perfection,’ whereas my definition of the word goes more along the lines of a ‘beautiful way to hate life and send yourself to the grave early.’
And before you inundate my inbox with hate mail, hear me out. I am not saying those who identify themselves as perfectionists are ill-mannered or have the wrong intentions. What I am saying is if you want to succeed and get ahead in life, perfectionism will not get you there any sooner.
Striving for the best
Sure, a person should and can strive to have the best in life. Still, there is a fine line between reaching one’s desired goals in life and failing miserably because of the unrealistic expectations one has set upon themselves with this ideology of ‘perfectionism.’ Nothing is ever perfect in life, and there will always be room for improvement in everything we do, including chasing success.
Willingness to succeed
A person who seeks to want the best in life and to reach their desired level of success is one who is motivated by the will to achieve greatness. On the other hand, perfectionists are usually driven by the fear of failure.
Fear of failure
By fearing to fail, a person fails to live. When a person chooses to live in this manner, valuing themselves only by their achievements, they set themselves up for even greater failures in life as a whole. The reason for this is that the way they value themselves becomes intertwined with their level of success. The moment they do not achieve the level of perfectionism or success they seek, they identify themselves as failures and open themselves up to criticism. The unfortunate thing here is that the one who will be giving and receiving the criticism is no one other than themselves.
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” — Brené Brown
Embrace your losses
Rather than looking at ways to improve their methods or pathways to success, perfectionists struggle with the concept of dealing with and taking losses when things don’t go their way, which often leads to negative self-talk and the placing of unnecessary pressures on oneself. This is not only unhealthy but a difficult way to live, and after a long period of exposing oneself to such negativity, it eventually takes a significant toll on one’s emotional and mental well-being.
To truly succeed, one must learn to embrace losses as they come and not permit roadblocks to define who they are or their level of success. Success comes to those who continue to soldier on regardless of how many times they get knocked down. Didn’t get that promotion or meet your sales target? Who cares.
Well, perhaps your boss might, but don’t worry about that; what you should be worried about is not worrying about those little bumps in the road and being willing to accept that things can’t always be perfect or go the way you hoped on your quest to success. However, you can learn from the experience and improve your methods.
Be your cheerleader
I’ve worked with enough clients over the years to see the negative impacts perfectionism can have on a person; believe me, it is not pretty. Not only does the constant battle to be perfect take a toll on a person, but it also begins to slowly seep through to their relationships with others, including those they value the most.
One such individual was a client of mine who worked for a Fortune 500 company. After years of pushing themselves to the extreme to achieve what they called the ‘perfect’ life, it all came crashing down, forcing them to re-evaluate their entire career and their unhealthy obsession with ‘perfectionism.’ After being pushed to the brink and having a mental breakdown, they moved to the country and opened up a little business, which by the way, is thriving!
But best of all, they are now doing what they love without the constant negative self-talk they were accustomed to when trying to create a façade of a perfect life and chasing the idea of perfectionism.
Let it flow
There is nothing a person can’t achieve in life, and we should all strive to do the best we can. However, in doing so, we must understand and learn to accept ourselves as is, flawed and all. A person who achieves great success is not one who is perfect but rather one who is willing to be imperfect and accept that mistakes will be made along their journey to success. Perfectionism is merely an illusion that places unrealistic expectations on a person. You can only do things to the best of your ability, and if it doesn’t work, try again – that is what true success is.