8 Simple Truths About Perfectionism

Posted by Jill Chivers in Simple Truths



  1. Being perfect isn’t possible. No matter how hard you try, how much time you put in, how much sweat and blood pours from your brow with the exertion of it all, being perfect and creating a perfect result is not possible 99.9% of the time for the majority of us mere mortals. You can get very close, very very close, but 100% perfect is not possible for most endeavours and most people. You, or someone else, can always find one thing wrong with it (whatever it is you’ve created), if you look hard and long enough.
  2. Being perfect isn’t necessary. Why our focus on, even obsession with, perfectionism? When you get even just a millimetre beneath the surface of perfectionism, you see how ludicrous an ideal and idea it really is. Perfectionism isn’t required – we simply do not need to aim for it.
  3. Excellence is a better goal. Many of us hold ourselves to high standards. Often the distinction between a dabbler or an amateur and a professional is the quality of the standard they strive for and accept in themselves and their work. This is a sentiment I agree with. Amateurs are dabblers and “trying” is good enough. I am an amateur in quite a few things, and I give myself permission to not be excellent, or strive for excellence, in those areas – it’s part of what makes those things fun! But in my work and professional endeavours, I strive for excellence. I give my very best. I work beyond where the fun (and passion) wears very thin. I keep going until I feel there’s nothing more I can contribute. I consider that approach “professional” and it’s quite distinct from the amateur or dabbler approach. And a damn sight healthier and more achievable than striving for perfect.
  4. Being perfect isn’t expected. I should clarify that I don’t expect perfection in others, or in experiences and things. I expect the very best if I’m paying for the very best – but that doesn’t mean 100% perfect.   If someone’s “very best” isn’t good enough for me, I have the right to move on and find someone else. But to expect perfect is to set yourself and others up to fail, and for disappointment.
  5. Being perfect isn’t desirable. Sometimes it’s the imperfections that make something interesting or unique. Without the small imperfections, it’s bland, boring, blah.
  6. Striving for perfectionism can make you boring. People who are constantly striving for perfectionism are often so one-eyed and tunnel-visioned that they can’t expand their repertoire to anything other than the thing they wish to perfect.   It can make for very dull conversation.
  7. Perfectionism gets in the way of getting things done. You can get stuck when your focus is exclusively on getting it done perfectly or the final outcome being perfect. You keep going over the final 1% or 3% or whatever it is that’s the gap between where you are now and 100% perfect, and needling away at it until you improve it, even if it’s by the most miniscule of margins. This prevents you from closing it off, and moving onto the next thing.
  8. Perfectionism gets in the way of being happy. Trying to move from 99% (or wherever you are that’s less than 100% perfect) to 100% perfect can seriously impede your ability to be happy, light and joyful in your life. All you can think about is where you fall short, even if some part of your brain and body knows how ridiculous that ‘gap’ or shortcoming is.


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    2 Responses to “8 Simple Truths About Perfectionism”

    1. Robyn says:

      Perfectionism is fascinating, isn’t it. Your distinction between perfectionism and excellence is well made. It can be easy to slip from striving to do your best into wanting ‘it’ (yourself, your work, your life, your relationships, your bedmaking and potato-peeling) to be perfect. Which of course only leads to dissatisfaction, beating yourself up, etc. I have also been thought-provoked by Brene Brown’s section on perfectionism in her book ‘Daring Greatly’, which is about risking being vulnerable in order to be happy. It brought home to me that my own perfectionism was born out of wanting to be liked or loved and fearing to be criticised. So instead of being a strong thing as I had thought, it was really a scared thing. Here you give ample reasons for directing our energies more sensibly. Another wise post, thank you Jill!

      • Jill Chivers says:

        Thank you Robyn… I have been fascinated by perfectionism and how people seem so driven to strive for it (and revere it). Part of the issue seems to be some perverted perception that if you aren’t striving for perfect, then you aren’t really trying, that your standards are woefully low and the quality of what you are doing and delivering (whether that be yourself as the perfect partner/mother/employee or perfectly peeled potatoes) is of an exceedingly poor standard. Which of course is nonsense – there are many things that can be done to an excellent level that aren’t perfect. And I love what you share about Brene Brown’s take on how we need to risk being vulnerable in order to be happy. Oh how marvellous!

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