It is said that happiness and perfectionism do not go hand in hand. Some would even go as far as saying that the human condition is ‘imperfection’. If you think of it, even the most accomplished and most successful people make mistakes in their work and home life. From a self development point of view, the making of mistakes is actually a blessing in disguise: a chance for personal growth and personal development.
Is perfectionism a state of mind ?
In a way, perfectionism could be looked on as an ‘attitude’. Perfectionists often feel that if things do not go 100% their way, it has been a failure. In some cases this is true, e.g., if a surgical procedure for some serious condition does not go completely to plan, the patient could die. If a bungee jump does not go as expected there are no second chances. However, most people look on perfectionism as something to aspire to and not in terms of total failure.
Are you a perfectionist ?
Most people look for perfection in some aspect of their work or social life, e.g., expecting that:
* A presentation goes smoothly with no last minute hiccups
* A document they have compiled has no embarrassing typo errors
* An evening date that has been prepared in advance goes as planned
* A suit that has been bought specifically for an occasion looks the part
* A music recital they have practised hard for does not have any ‘noticeable slips’
* And many other examples…
However, some people are such perfectionists that their world falls apart if their very high standards are not met. They are actually quite nervous a lot of the time. You constantly ask yourself "What will happen if it's not perfect?" In fact, there are many ways that things can go wrong even after planning for the worst eventuality!
Why it causes such stress
When things do not go to plan most people accept this as ‘life’. However, as a perfectionist you have such high expectations for yourself (and for people around you) that you find it difficult to accept mistakes. You become very stressed when things do not go to plan.
Also, when things go wrong you feel it is YOUR fault. You tell yourself that there must have been something that you forgot to do to make it all OK. You beat yourself up. The frustration and anger soon then leads to decreased self-esteem.
No one can sustain perfection over a period of time. There is nothing wrong with others seeing your imperfections. After all, that is what makes you YOU. If your peace of mind depends on everything being perfect, this is a sure recipe for stress and unhappiness.
Know what you can change in life
Things that make you unhappy fall into two categories: things that can be corrected or changed, and things that cannot. If the situation can be altered, then take whatever action is necessary to do so.
On the other hand, if you know that nothing can change the situation, for your own emotional health, do not waste any more energies on it. You gain absolutely nothing in being unhappy about it all.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Another trait of perfectionists is that they are forever comparing themselves with others. Why? That only causes grief. Just be YOU. You are always at your happiest when you are not trying to be something you are not. You do not have to live to someone else’s standards. Be your own personal mentor and decide how YOU want to live your life as this will give you the greatest peace.
Why it is good to make mistakes
Did you realise that the quickest way to ‘grow’ as a person is to make mistakes? You actually learn nothing new when situations go well. Things need to go wrong to make you sit up and take notice and work out what that ‘bad experience’ taught you.
Look at young children. They are forever pushing the boundaries of their creativity. They only stop when they are told off. They soon learn that there are social, cultural, religious and other restraints in society. They learn by making mistakes. At some point in life you lose that childhood creativity. Allow yourself to make mistakes again and see how your life opens once more to great creativity.
Try this experiment !
As an experiment, for just one day (or less!) try allowing everything to go wrong. Approach every task as if you did not care how it turned out. How did you feel at the end of the day? Were you gutted or did you experience a sense of release and childhood thrill?
Relinquishing some of your perfectionism also allows for self growth and for the more creative elements inside you come forth. Why? Your sub-conscious is no longer dead scared of any retribution and you resort closer to who you really are inside.
A great asset of NOT being a perfectionist
One of the disadvantages of being a perfectionist is that you keep putting things off until:
* The time is right
* The conditions are right
* You have the right tools
* The right people are there
* And numerous other excuses…
Very successful people do not delay taking action. They do not wait for everything to be perfect. And they get things done! If you stop waiting for everything to be perfect before you take action you will achieve so much more.
In summary, if you can be slightly less of a perfectionist the benefits are life-transforming. Try it! Expect that things will go wrong and welcome these experiences as opportunities for personal growth and self development.