I’ve always considered myself a bit of a perfectionist. From a young age I always wanted to ‘do things right’ – not necessarily be the best, but if I did something I wanted to make sure I gave it 100% every time. Sometimes this was a good thing, in school exams for example, but other times I think it only made me stressed to feel like I had to be either perfect, or nothing at all. This trend has carried on more or less throughout my adult life and let me tell you, it can be tiring. If I decide to do something I commit 100%, which isn’t a bad thing of course, but everything being black and white will eventually start to burn you out and make you not want to do anything at all.
It has only been over the last few months that I have seen perfection to be the evil force that it is. I always knew that having a compulsion to make everything 100% complete was never a great thing, but somehow I thought it wasn’t too bad if you were always striving to do your absolute best. I have realised however, that perfection taps into more negative emotions than positive ones, and although it is a good thing to try your best, perfection demands perfection every time, and the more you try to achieve this, the more you are heaping more and more pressure on yourself for next time.
What might start out as a healthy enthusiasm to do well turns into being paralysed with fear and not doing anything at all, believing that this is a better outcome than producing something that is 100% ‘right’. This may sound extreme, but I’ve found it happening to me over the last year – there are some things I just shy away from because I know I cant give it 100% right now, so I just do nothing.
Imagine what we could achieve if there was no perfectionism, if we could just do something because we enjoyed it, or to simply give it a go? I read a quote recently that has completely changed my outlook on things, and has allowed me to start tasks that I had been putting off for months because I was scared if I started them they wouldn’t be perfect.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good
It was like a revelation reading those eight words for me, and I hope it is for you too. We don’t have to be perfect at anything we do in life, and that is OK. There are some thing we will be naturally good at, and others we will need to work at – that is life. We should never stop ourselves from doing anything we want to do, or not give something a try because we mightn’t be very good at it – we will never know until we do! And this goes for all things in life – eating well, exercising, saving money – if we slip up or things don’t go as planned we shouldn’t throw in the towel and give up, because perfection is not the goal anymore, trying is. And after all, if life is about the journey, then the whole perfectionism thing is kind of defunct isn’t it?
If the world could stop for a moment and change its goals to ‘good’ rather than ‘perfect’, wouldn’t it be a much happier place?