Painfully perfect? May 15, 2017 – Posted in: Advice, Confidence, Personal Development – Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

painfully perfect?

“I can’t possibly be a perfectionist!  I never get anything right!”

This was the response of my client to my suggestion that she was suffering with perfectionism.  After she spoke I remained silent and slowly the realisation of what she’d said hit her…

“Oh, wait!” she said, “If I wasn’t a perfectionist I wouldn’t always worry about getting everything right… Right?”


As a specialist in confidence issues I see perfectionism in my clients on a very regular basis.  And it’s a killer because it literally sets you up to fail at something you can’t win at in the first place because it doesn’t exist.  It’s the ultimate vicious cycle…

Check this out:

refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.
a doctrine holding that perfection is attainable, especially the theory that human moral or spiritual perfection should be or has been attained.

If you believe that perfection is attainable and that you should be trying to attain it you will have a miserable life.  You will likely spend a lot of time berating yourself for not being good enough and you will likely be unhappy with your lot because you believe it’s not good enough.  If you believe that perfection is attainable you might be hard on other people as well because they don’t meet your standards.  They never signed up to your standards but you are judging them by them all the same.

Some more tell-tale signs of perfectionism…

  • You’re probably a perfectionist if you constantly get cross with yourself for not doing well enough/looking right/sounding right/feeling right…
  • You’re probably a perfectionist if you constantly compare yourself to other people
  • You’re probably a perfectionist if you mentally live in the future, “When I’m a  size 10 then I’ll be happy… / When I have a girlfriend then I’ll be content… / When I’m promoted I’ll feel better…”
  • You’re probably a perfectionist if you carry deep resentments towards other people
  • You’re probably a perfectionist if you have low self-esteem and low-self-confidence
  • You’re probably a perfectionist if you often don’t start projects unless you think you can smash it – perfectionism causes procrastination
  • You’re definitely a perfectionist if you have a voice in your head negatively narrating everything you do…

In short perfectionism is the false belief that you/others/things CAN be perfect and that therefore you/others/things SHOULD be perfect.

But, is perfection really attainable?  I genuinely don’t think it is.  Maybe something might be deemed perfect by one person but you won’t have to travel far to find someone else who disagrees.  Perfection is utterly subjective. For example, I really love the rain!  I also love the sun but the rain makes me feel alive and connected in a powerful way.  I would therefore call a rainy morning, ‘perfect’ if I wanted to go out for a walk.  Most of the rest of the population would argue against my use of the word ‘perfect’ in this instance because for them a rainy morning is a pain the ass.

As a culture we get caught up in seeking perfection (which, by the way, is just a distraction from being present)…

  • The perfect body – not possible
  • The perfect home – not possible
  • The perfect marriage – errr…
  • The perfect parent – ditto
  • The perfect job – you get my point now, yes?

Our culture admires perfection and promotes perfectionism.  People wear their perfectionism like a badge of honour but they are often some of the most fearful and unfulfilled people I know because they never reach their goal.

The antidote to perfectionism is two-fold:

  1.  Acceptance of life just as it is.  No judgement – just seeing ‘what is’ and being okay with it
  2.  Doing your best – that’s all.  Just keep taking the next right step and the next and the next.  Do your best and let life give its best back to you.

Perfectionism is an unattainable goal.  Drop it!

P.S. My acclaimed debut book Flying for Beginners will teach you how to manage that harsh voice of perfection – you can buy it on Amazon for £7.99.

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