Perfectionism – the mantra for success in today’s world. From the first day of school, we are conditioned to be perfect – perfect while writing those first letters, perfect while reciting the funny poems and perfect while putting that red ribbon on the hair. Every one of us strives to be perfect. But would you agree with me if I say that perfection comes at a cost?
When I was little, I had an obsession for color pencils! I had a pack of beautiful Bingo sketch colors. I had a special attachment to those colors and always took special care so as to not apply much force that would make the point go inside. I wanted my colors to be perfect so that I could color my drawings perfectly and be envied by all the first graders. Once I had a friend of mine come over to my house to play. I showed her my colors and she asked whether she could try one. I hesitated but since she was a good friend I gave her one. I cautioned her to not apply much force. But as fate would have it, she jabbed it on the paper and the nib went inside the sketch pen body! I was devastated. I took hold of her hair and for the first time in my life, I hit somebody so hard that she fell with wincing pain. But no, I was not done. I got on top of her and I scratched all over her face and hands with my bare nails. I even remember the blood. In an attempt to conserve perfection, I cleaved a perfect friendship.
It’s easy to be a victim of perfectionism. I say victim as I no longer regard perfectionism as something I would help improve myself. When we invite guests to our home, we lament that we do not have a good house that looks just like the ones on a décor magazine cover. At work, we stress enough for not working hard and not trying enough to grab the promotion looming over our heads or maybe for not getting the salary we deserve. At home, we worry that our children are not turning out the perfect way we have wanted them to be. You might want your daughter to be a ballet dancer but she might fall in love with hip-hop. Same applies with love. We keep searching for the perfect man of our dreams and end up being single the whole life. And the most dangerous is when it comes to our appearance. We are never pretty enough or tall enough or blonde enough or curvy enough.
It’s fine to have aspirations and set the bar high but it becomes unhealthy when we start brutally criticizing ourselves. It not only takes a toll on you but also becomes a nightmare for people around you. Imagine having a sister who cannot withstand the slightest consistency or flaw!
The first thing that perfectionism leads to is stress. Who doesn’t like to be perfect? But being perfect also demands perfect conditions. Imagine you are a perfectionist and you daily plan out your work schedule. You always complete whatever you plan in time. But at your workplace there would be constant distractions, disturbances and unforeseen hurdles. At the end of the day all you would feel is the stress for not being able to complete the day’s work. A normal person would just decide to complete it the next day but for a perfectionist, it takes away the sleep from his eyes.
Theirs is nothing bad in being a perfectionist. It becomes a nightmare only when you get stuck in the loop of self-blame and criticism when you fail to live up to your expectations. This leads to eating disorders, anxiety and finally depression. Perfectionists fail to realize that a small failure is a long jump towards the opportunity to learn. Being a perfectionist is actually like the relationship you never had in fear of being cheated. It is like the hill you never climbed because you were not sure what lies on the other side. It is like the recipe you never tried fearing that it would not be perfect. It is like the handsome boy you never approached due to the fear of being rejected. In short, perfectionism is just existing and not living your life to its fullest.
Having the obsession of being the best may sometimes break your ladder to success. To get success, you need to put on a lot of risks. Taking risks is never in the dictionary of a perfectionist because the fear of failure looms over their head. They avoid situations because of the insidious feeling that someone else might outperform them. Plus their confidence level becomes low because of their harsh self-criticism. Even if they achieve something big, instead of celebrating they brush aside their achievement thinking that they had set the bar too low!
I repeat again that setting a bar and level in life is not wrong. But avoid getting onto the lap of perfectionism. Whenever you feel obsessed, focus on other spheres of life and recognize that friends, family and enjoyment are also important in life. Never define yourself by a list of accomplishments. Treat mistakes as a learning lesson. And don’t let your life come crashing down for every small failure. Perfection has no upper limit. So why waste your life trying to achieve something unachieveable?