Perfectionism is a disease. Perfection is an unattainable and thus unrealistic goal that will always remain just out of reach. There is no such thing as perfect in real life, and you will drive yourself crazy trying to become so. When you stop to really consider what perfection is—no unexpected events, no change, nothing left to strive for—you realize it is actually quite boring. Life is a journey, not a specific destination we aim to reach. Life is unfolding all around us in every minute, always changing, flowing with the movement of time. Perfection is stagnation, and it is unnatural, counter to life’s patterns.
On the topic of perfectionism, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“Perfectionism is one of the characteristics of addiction. Perfectionism is setting up an abstract, external ideal of what we should be or should be able to do that has little or no relationship to who we are or what we need to do and then trying to mold ourselves into that ideal.
In trying to be the abstract perfect, we batter, judge, and distort ourselves. No matter what we do or how we try to achieve, it is never enough. We are never enough. Trying too hard and never trying at all are two sides of the coin of perfection. Unfortunately, it is a coin that never pays off.”
These words cut deep, because I see so much of myself in them. In our effort to be perfect, we are not kind to ourselves. We do not nurture our minds, souls, and bodies. Because we have set an unrealistic ideal for ourselves to which we can never measure up, we always fall short of the desired goal, and rather than see the ideal against which we compare ourselves as flawed, we instead see ourselves as flawed. Overtime, this erodes our self-esteem until we feel like we are worthless. After trying so hard for so long and always failing, you begin to feel like you are not enough, nothing you do will be enough. It’s a terribly empty and lonely feeling.
When Anne says the other side of the coin of perfection is never trying at all, what she means is we can’t fail if we don’t try, right? Some people take that perspective; they become paralyzed by the fear of failure, that everything must be done perfectly or not at all, that they simply stop trying. What kind of a life is that?
Life is a beautiful, messy, chaotic experience in which we make mistakes, learn, and grow. You can’t learn if you’re perfect already. You learn from your mistakes. You grow from your pains and failures. People who are perfect don’t grow, they don’t improve, because there is nowhere to go from perfection but down. I’d much rather live my life through many imperfect experiences, always building on the foundation of what I know.