Perfectionism Has A Price

Perfectionism Has A Price

Ashley Schmidt, Staff Reporter

As much as you may hate to hear it, you will never be perfect. Life will not fully live up to your expectations, and there will always be someone who is better at something than you. While it is good to strive to do well, being consumed by the need for perfection destroys happiness and frequently leads to burnout.


Why Are People Jealous of Perfectionists?

Those who have perfectionistic traits often seem to be envied for their achievements. However, with the success comes the extreme self-criticism, constant unhappiness with work, and an intense fear of making mistakes. One simple fifteen minute assignment can take a perfectionist two hours and cause a meltdown from the overwhelming need for perfection.

Despite websites talking about the unhappiness of perfectionists, others still strive to become like them. One online search can bring someone to websites on how to become a perfectionist. In an article about how to be a perfectionist on WikiHow, it even goes as far as to say that perfectionism “will make you happy.” Being the third link to come up on the Google search of “how to be a perfectionist,” it’s no wonder why society seems to correlate perfectionism to happiness.


Reality of Perfectionism

Perfectionism is not a recipe for happiness, even if it does bring initial success. What doesn’t show up on the articles praising perfectionism is that perfectionism is often accompanied by procrastination and/or burnout. The constant self-criticism and all of the time spent making things perfect is absolutely exhausting, leaving no room for fun or socializing.

One particularly ironic action of some perfectionists is procrastination. The fear of making mistakes is so overwhelming that perfectionists will often find themselves unable to start a task. While procrastination doesn’t end well in the long run, it provides short term relief from the fear of failure. However, once the perfectionist is able to get themselves to start the task, panic ensues due to the lack of time to perfect everything, sometimes leading to missed deadlines or not turning in things at all.


What Can a Perfectionist Do to Find Happiness?

The obvious answer is to not be quite so much of a perfectionist, but that is easier said than done. In order to overcome perfectionism to find happiness, the perfectionistic thought cycle must be broken. Once the cycle gets broken, it becomes possible to tame perfectionism to a healthy level to find happiness.

One way to fight perfectionism is to challenge the negative thoughts about a performance or assignment. When your brain says something about how horrible your work is and how much better it could have been, tell yourself that you put in a lot of hard work and that the work is something to be proud of. While at first it will seem silly and pointless, continually challenging the critical thoughts with positivity will slowly chip away at the negative thought cycle that seems unbreakable. Before long, the positive thoughts about your work won’t seem so farfetched and will actually become believable and you will be able to give yourself credit for your hard work.

Another more direct way to fight perfectionism is by intentionally making mistakes. Yes, this sounds absolutely terrifying, but perfectionism is a fear of making mistakes and the only way to overcome a fear is by challenging it. These mistakes don’t have to be large, it could be something as small as writing a word with incorrect spelling or intentionally writing the wrong answer on a question. When the world doesn’t end with a mistake, your brain will slowly be able to realize that one mistake isn’t such a big deal.

While a slight desire for perfection can be a key element to success, full-blown perfectionism is the opposite of productive. Too many well-intending people fall into the perfectionistic cycle, and to all of those people, it is possible to make it back out and to enjoy your success. It is always good to aim high and shoot for the stars, but also remember to enjoy life and celebrate the success along the way.