Chapter 5: To my fellow perfectionists

Living life as perfectionist comes with its advantages and disadvantages. It is pretty much the same as with any character trait. While there are perks to scoring high on a particular trait,  there are also equally as much downsides. With perfectionism one of the primary benefits includes a high likelihood to be successful in your professional, academic, or personal work. Your inner drive towards achieving perfect results makes you work hard until you are satisfied with your work.

Of course, the crux is that, we, perfectionists can never be truly satisfied with anything we do. Although we might have been told and might be aware that nothing in this world can be perfect, we still don’t rest, aiming for 100% performance and complete satisfaction with our work. As a side-effect we keep spotting the tiniest shortcomings in what we do, constantly trying to improve them. Hence why, most of our work will be of very high quality as we have invested a lot of time and effort into making it “perfect”.

Yet, this very same never-ending urge to work harder, to get better, and to consistently improve is our doom. We struggle to reach piece of mind with the faults in our doings. It is hard for us forget about the 10%  that we did not achieve, while we seemingly forget about the other 90% we did manage to complete successfully. For sure, this biased perception is not a healthy one as it leads to a tendency of focusing all our attention on our flaws. We are indeed the hardest judge of our own work. We tend to beat ourselves down for our imperfections, and we skip over the part of enjoying what we have accomplished. It is hard for us to rest and accept that what we have created may not be perfect, nevertheless it still represents our best possible version at a given time.

Perfectionism becomes a badge of honor with you playing the part of the suffering hero.

David D. Burns

If we are not careful, we can easily end up being enslaved to our perfectionism. The truth is that our perfectionism will keep us from resting at ease with ourselves, unless we decide to put a leash on it. The good news is though that we can break the chains which our perfectionism has trapped us in. We can end the ordeal of our perfectionism by coming to terms with imperfection.  Stopping our perfectionism from overruling us,  means learning to accept the image of ourselves as an imperfect person. It also means to be ok  leaving our work without the final edit, because there would always be another final edit to be made afterwards.

To tame our perfectionism, we need to realise and, moreover, internalise that being imperfect is not the equivalent to being not love-worthy. The flaws in our behaviour, the lack in our ability, the limits within our character, they all do not make us less valuable, or acceptable. Quite the contrary, imperfection makes us human. Imperfections make us relatable, and, if anything at all, they just make us more love-worthy. Making mistakes bears no shame as long as we humbly acknowledge our faults and show our best effort to improve on them.

In short, to restrain the unruly perfectionism within us, we need to change our perceptions and attitude towards imperfection. In doing so, most importantly, we need to adjust how we treat ourselves. Only if we stop being abusive with ourselves, we have a chance to obtain a healthy relationship with the otherwise poisonous perfectionist, that we are. This means that we need to stop ruminating about every little imperfection and to stop demeaning or punishing ourselves for every flaw that we spot. Our souls are sensitive little creatures and we need to be gentle with them, or else they will be broken under the tyranny of perfectionism.

In the end it all comes down to forming a mutually nourishing, peaceful, and balanced coexistence between our perfectionism, our mind, and our hearts. This is the advice I can give to you, my fellow perfectionists, and this is the advice I need myself the most.

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