The Problem With Perfection: The Vampire of Personality Traits
Many people, especially women, have been conditioned to think we have to be utterly perfect at everything. The way we do our hair, the way we dress, the way we eat, the way we do our work, all have to be completely and utterly pristine. That, clearly, is extremely unhealthy for us (newsflash: nobody's perfect). But dealing with failure productively can still be extremely difficult. While it may be difficult to fully relieve yourself of your perfectionist past, making efforts to improve can be extremely rewarding. I mean, really, who wants to be in a perpetual state of perfection? It’s unheard of; it’s unrealistic; and most importantly it’s unhealthy! But have no fear. I, a fellow perfectionist, am here to save the day!
Before we get into how to cope with perfectionism, we’re first going to find out if you’re a perfectionist or not. No, a perfectionist isn’t necessarily someone with a spotless house, and everything color-coded. A perfectionist is someone who may not delegate their work to others because they don’t trust them (hello, me!). They may also have difficulties completing projects because of the fear of not being perfect (um, hello again). Other traits include fixation on mistakes, obsession with perfection, and avoidance of situations that could be imperfect in the least.
Failure can be a visceral experience. It can affect you on all levels: mentally, physically, and emotionally. But the first thing you need to know is failure is a part of life—a necessary part of life. As difficult as it is to cope with, failures aren’t going anywhere. Instead of dreading the inevitable, realize that failures are merely ways to further your success. As cliché as it sounds, viewing failure in a positive light, as a means for growth, can help you cope with it if (when*) it happens. I promise I’m not being mean! But failure, at some point, will come. As frustrating and upsetting as it will be, it will happen. Forming a positive relationship with failure will take the pressure off of you as a burgeoning perfectionist. Trust me. It works. While I haven’t achieved that level of freedom where failure doesn’t faze me at all (yes, sometimes I still cry at the missed opportunities), learning to cope with these new opportunities with discernment and grace has altered the way I approach them.
Perfectionism can also be quite dire. It’s often accompanied by anxiety disorders, depression, or eating disorders. If you or someone you know is suffering from any of these things, try to get help as best you can. Not only is perfectionism affecting and infiltrating the minds of neurotypical people, it’s damaging the minds of those already suffering and coping with mental health problems. We continue to strive for perfection in all facets of our life. We’re sold the story that our lives should be perfectly balanced at all times. There’s no room for error in this capitalist machine we happen to inhabit. I hate to break it to you, but that story is a myth. Striving to be the best you can be is perfectly normal; we should all be aiming to be the best versions of ourselves. But when that struggle to be your best self shifts from a healthy competition to an enraging rivalry, it’s probably time to sit back and rethink how you’re approaching life. Recognize that those times of failure are really just times to improve in various areas. Accept that life is a beautiful, ongoing process of growth. Sometimes you’ll hit the mountains, and sometimes you’ll hit the valleys. Whatever it may be, you’re still qualified. You’re still intelligent. You’re still amazing. And those little imperfections don’t change any of that.
Cover via Life and Mind