Do We have to be in Pursuit of Perfection?

Life is a journey; we cannot deny that!

Some days things seem to fall into place, and other times, you just can’t fathom how it all went wrong.

Growing up, I still remember the goal of life as was propagated in the media and by society: the 6-1 Rule of Life (in my own words):

6-figure salary

5- days of working each week

4- wheel drive car

3-bedroomed house

2- kids

1-Wife or husband (depending on what you are looking for)

From research, I found a 0, which I don’t recall existing at that time: well, if memory serves me right. It signifies 0- tension.

Many of us who, ever came across this rule probably strove for and are still attempting to achieve it. If you could summarize your life as the 6543210 rulethen, you were living “the” perfect life.


Delving Deeper into The Urge to be Perfect

From a young age, many of us are conditioned —by the media and society— to achieve a perfect home, body, image, lifestyle, and all things “perfection.” 

As a result, in pursuit of perfection, one’s life becomes like a report card. Having a checklist of goals and achievements, guiding them through life.

A perfectionist imposes high standards on themselves, and pressures them-self to work harder than the rest. 

Perfectionism in a child can be attributed to an overbearing parent who gives conditional love and nurturing to the kid. It could also be due to taking great responsibility from a young age.

Other scenarios that can contribute to the need to be perfect include:

   ◊ Education Systems

Most education systems in the world emphasize grades. The grading levels then separate the students into high-performers, average students, and low-performers.

If we can be honest with ourselves, many of us wanted and did all we could to be among the best. It was a moment of glory.

However, it put you in the limelight as every other student would seek to know your performance after every exam. If you were a high-achiever, you didn’t want to fall out of the group.

And if you did, then you would use every strategy possible to recover the lost “glory.”

   ◊ The Illusion of Control

Sometimes if not always, the events that shape our lives are out of our control. In an attempt to deal with the uncertainty that we face, we may seek to control other areas of our lives.

It is a defense mechanism against the crisis at hand. A source of distraction.

Our thinking may even convince us that by being perfect, we can rid ourselves of the challenge. Say, an abusive relationship or addiction.

   ◊ Compensation for the challenges of life

How many of us pursued the top grades in class, hoping that scholastic achievements, will be a compensation for the problems you are facing or faced?

You probably cannot say it out loud, but deep down, you know that it was one of your motivations.


Types of Perfectionism

There’s much debate on what constitutes perfectionism. Some psychologists divide it into two types, adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism.

Both set high standards for themselves, but the maladaptive perfectionist gets more stressed when they fail to reach those standards, than, the adaptive one.

Other classifications include those with socially prescribed perfectionism; they tend to feel like, if they do better, the better they are expected to do. Such people believe that others will value them only if they are perfect.

This kind of perfectionism is associated with depression and even suicide.

Self-oriented perfectionism (an internal desire to be perfect), is linked with mental health problems such as eating disorders.


Effects & Ways To Overcome

The path of a perfectionist can be a vicious cycle of self-destruction. Being held back by the fear of disapproval, failure, or making mistakes.

It can immobilize you, reduce your productivity, and take away your motivation.

Mel Schwartz L.C.S.W., the author of A Shift of Mind, adds that, in this pursuit, one robs themself, of the vitality of life— being present. One is either replaying the decisions they have made, critiquing the past, or always worrying about the future.

Perfectionism can constrain one’s happiness. Yes, you can set high standards, and reach them with effort. But you need to deal with the insecurities that push you to desire perfection.


Ignore what other people are doing. Ignore what’s going on around you. There is no competition. There is no objective benchmark to hit. There is simply the best you can do — that’s all that matters.  Ryan Holiday


It’s okay to make mistakes. Set realistic goals. Cut yourself some slack once in a while.

No matter how bad you may want to achieve something, events beyond your control may make the goal unattainable. It doesn’t make you a failure.

Don’t be rigid; it is now time to learn how to take one step at a time.

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