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Are You a Perfectionist?

Updated on April 22, 2013

Does Perfection Exist?

Nothing is perfect, nature makes it that way.
Nothing is perfect, nature makes it that way. | Source

Being a Perfectionist

Do you linger over decisions, or does it take a long time to complete projects until you have continually reworked them? Are you filled with doubt about almost anything you do? Do you go to great lengths to avoid mistakes? Do you feel like what you have accomplished is never really good enough? Are you stuck, not moving forward because you want things just right. Do you demand a lot of others because things have to be done to your standards? You might just be a perfectionist.

We all envision things to be a certain way. Perfectionism can be an extreme on the range of standards. Adaptive perfectionism is a healthy way to balance your needs with the reality of the world around you. People who a healthy attitude about how they want things to be set high but realistic targets. They would rather avoid mistakes, but accept them. They can balance the negatives wth the positives. They gain a sense of satisfaction from their efforts.

Mistakes Are Hard For Perfectionists

It is good to have high standards, it is not good to demand perfection. It is good to aim high, but be realistic. It is not good to have them so high, they can never be achieved. It is okay to not like mistakes. It is not okay to not be able to tolerate mistakes at all. It is okay to see the negatives in some situations. It is not okay to solely focus on the negatives and not see the positives. It is okay to want to do better. It is not okay to feel that nothing is good enough.

People who not balanced in their approach of setting their standards, those who seek perfection and tolerate nothing less, may end up never achieving their goals. Their self talk is full of critical and derogatory statements about themselves and they don’t accept their own positives. They live an empty feeling, always feeling like a failure, that they have not measured up. They may end up procrastinating, be full of regrets, and may be prone to worries and depression.

Making a mistake is an opportunity to learn and improve.

There is a difference between perfectionism and aiming for high standards. Perfectionists are never happy with themselves or what others do.

Perfectionists don’t allow themselves to have the right to feel good about the way things are. Perfectionists are often stuck in the past and may have trouble moving forward and learning from their experiences. The truth is that mistakes teach us things, and helps us to make progress. Perfectionists feel terrible about themselves and never know true self satisfaction. Good is never good enough.

People and Perfectionism

People who are perfectionists share many of the same traits
People who are perfectionists share many of the same traits | Source

Common Traits Perfectionists Share

Perfectionists share many common characteristics. They are usually well groomed and well organized. Perfectionists push them hard. Outwardly they appear competent and confidence, high achievers and seem to have their act together. They elicit perfectness in their looks, their demeanor, and the things they do. Inwardly, they may feel much more insecure than they show the world.

Within a perfectionist sits a person who desires control, and is often so detail oriented that it stops their own progress. Inside themselves they have difficulty making decisions. They worry about making an incorrect choice to the point that they may not make any decisions. A perfectionist may not trust others to do the work, or do it right. With a perfectionist, things tend to be black and white, right and wrong. They usually have all or nothing thinking and this leads them to believe that they are either a success or a failure. If they aren’t perfect, they are worthless.

For a perfectionist, it is not enough to do your best, it is imposing their expectation of perfection on everyone else. It can mean making achievements impossible. Perfectionism is really a self defeating behavior and is actually an interference to success.

Perfectionism usually starts in childhood. Their self esteem may be based on external standards, leaving a person vulnerable and extra sensitive to the criticisms, judgments, and opinions of others. Perfectionism becomes a defense. They fear failure, mainly because they attach this to their personal self worth. They devalue their own needs, wants, and desires, and overemphasize their rigid rules about how to do things.

A perfectionist wants approval, and fears that their flaws will make them unacceptable and unlovable. They are trying to protect themselves from rejection.

They believe that their efforts are inadequate and put themselves under undo pressure to avoid mistakes and what they view as failure. They are constantly blaming themselves and be overly critical of their own efforts. This results in a low self esteem, reduced productivity, and dissatisfaction in their own accomplishments. Anxiety and depression and frustration may follow.

We Can't Be Perfect

Ways to Deal With the Need for Perfection

There are ways to combat the feelings of perfectionism through self awareness:

  • setting realistic standards

  • being true to your own wants and needs

  • building your own self esteem

  • set up strategies to move forward towards the next level of accomplishment

  • acknowledge your smallest accomplishments

  • forgive yourself for mistakes

  • learn from your mistakes

  • be aware of your feelings of anxiety and sadness

  • confront your fears

  • help yourself feel better about the negative ways you feel.

Perfectionism might feel like it is giving you comfort and protection from your fears, but there are real costs to needing to be perfect.

This rigid way of being and thinking and controlling, can make a person more susceptible to physical and emotional problems than people who have more flexibility in their thinking and are more open minded. Perfectionists may easily get upset if things don’t go their way. They may have trouble problem solving, being creative, adn coping with changes as they come their way.

Perfectionists may be stressed than other people and this can impact their health, interfere with their sleep, and cause problems such as high blood pressure, and impact their immune system.

Perfectionists struggle with internal conflicts and irrational beliefs, procrastination and lost productivity. In reality perfectionism is not worth the effort. But until you look at the whole picture, the costs, the risks, the benefits, the rewards, the wear and tear, the tolls it takes on your energy and self worth, perfectionism will rule your every effort and thought.

By trying to be perfect, we actually get in our own way. It is good to have high standards and seek the best in ourselves and others. But there are limits to how much is perfect and what we are willing to sacrifice within ourselves to seek perfection.

The opposite of perfection is ruination. Extreme perfection is an exercise in futility.

Wabi Sabi and Imperfections

Wabi Sabi accepts the beauty in imperfections.
Wabi Sabi accepts the beauty in imperfections. | Source

What is Wabi Sabi?

The Wabi Sabi principle is a beautiful Buddhist Japanese philosophy that may offer comfort to those who are trying to better understand their perfectionism. There are three basic principles that are part of Wabi Sabi.

  • nothing lasts

  • nothing is finished

  • nothing is perfect

In a Japanese art museum they would honor this philosophy by celebrating the beautiy in a cracked piece of pottery. They would shine light at the crack and highlight the perfect within it. People, have cracks too. Our imperfections and those of others, can help us look at things in a different perspective and appreciate their flaws and all.

Wabi Sabi, at its essence is about true beauty and acceptance about what makes life unique, even when it is not perfect. By bringing Wabi Sabi into our lives, we can gain a poise in our lives that brings about a sense of balance and honor from our past, our present, and who we truly are. Wabi Sabi helps us accept the world as being imperfect, that things change, and in the moment we have freedom. When we learn to embrace the imperfect, to accepts all that life is, with its imperfections around us and within us, we can truly be free to enjoy and in this way achieve a perfection we may never have known before.

Imperfections are there for us to appreciate. ISo the next time you finding yourself upset because things are not as perfect as you envisioned, take a step back and learn to appreciate the imperfections and how wonderful things are because of the way they are.

Allow your creativity to come out. Improvise and see where that leads you.

On its deepest level Wabi Sabi teaches us to value ourselves and others for who we are. Accepting that things don’t have to be perfect and finding the beauty in its flaws is an important lesson for everyone. For people who seek perfection, it is about being honest about who they are and embracing their own imperfections so they can enjoy all that life has to offer.

Nothing in nature is perfect. Even the wrinkles in a person’s face let us know that they have laughed, and cried, worried, and endured.

Our insecurities make us fearful. Our fears allow us to think irrationally. Our irrational thoughts cause us to magnify our own imperfections. We seek balance in our lives. When we realize that our thoughts may be where our flaws really exist, then maybe we will allow ourselves to be less than perfect, to love ourselves for who we are, and accept our true selves.

Did you ever hear of Wabi Sabi before reading this?

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We Don't See Ourselves the Way we Really Are


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    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi Kathi, I am so glad you liked this hub and Wabi Sabi will become part of your philosophy. It is always nice to see you. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Fossillady profile image


      5 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Great article TKI. . . I'm guilty of being a perfectionist, picky, anal, whatever you wanna call it. So I love the Japanese mantra "nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect"! It's completely, universally true and inarguable! Will hang onto it when I find myself being too picky! Take care, Kathi :O)


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