Overcome Perfectionism

Some people suffer from perfectionism, I am one of them.  Here is a list of problems that make sense within perfectionism, but outside it, make no sense.

  • Never fail.  Perfection means all success, and no failure, but this is unrealistic.  It is unrealistic because, like I explain in my Life Education Curriculum post “Who am I?” that “Who am I?” is an incomplete question because it lacks context, “never fail” is a phrase that lacks context.  Never fail at what? When? For how long? How do you define fail?  If I hold a cup of water and I don’t spill it, did I fail?  If the goal is to pour the water out, I failed; if the goal is to keep the water in the cup, then I succeeded.  What is the goal?  OK, let’s say we’ve established the goal is the pour the water out, does soda count?  Is it only when guests are over and I’m pouring for someone else, or does it apply to all instances of pouring water.  To yourself, you will never be timelessly perfect: you will make a mistake, and it won’t be perfect.  The only real perfection you can achieve is with respect to someone else: maybe whenever Allison-John is here, you want to be perfect.  You define yourself now as what Allison-John thinks of you, not what you think of yourself, or what anyone else thinks.  This is delusional denial of truth: appearing perfect to someone else makes you perfect in their eyes, but it does not make you perfect in your own eyes unless you actively ignore and forget the times you made a mistake.  This leads us to selective memory: perhaps you only remember the times you did something perfectly, because that’s what you want to think of yourself as, so you ignore and try to forget all the mistakes you’ve made.  Now you can say you “never fail” because you can’t think of any time you failed! Within perfectionism, this makes perfect sense: you have achieved perfection.  Outside perfectionism, we see that this perfection is based on delusion.
  • Never try again. It’s either all perfect, or, because of a single flaw, mistake, or imperfection, it is completely worthless to continue.  “If you ain’t first, you’re last” – Talladega Nights.  Many of us are programmed somehow, by our parents, society, teachers, peers, or ourselves, to be the best.  That if you’re not the best, you’re worthless, it’s a complete failure.  This is not true: we all know everyone fails.  Everyone makes mistakes, we just don’t commit the mistakes to memory because the successes are more memorable.  Within perfectionism, it is true: a mistake ruins the chance of timeless perfection, so to achieve timeless perfection we must move onto something else.  Outside perfectionism, we know that timeless perfection is impossible to achieve: the more you do something, the probability of you making a mistake increases.  Furthermore, outside perfectionism, we know that success is about determination, perseverance, hard work, and persistence.  Outside perfectionism, we know it’s stupid to think that we can start something, and instantly be perfect at it, and furthermore never stop being perfect at it.  Let go of timeless perfectionism, and embrace and accept the mistakes when they happen, so that you can learn from them and get closer to the more realistic goal of short term perfection.
  • Either-Or Fallacy. At the heart of all perfectionist thinking is all-or-nothing thinking, also called false dilemma (both links to Wikipedia).  A perfectionist views the world as one of two things: perfect, not perfect.  Within perfectionism, this makes sense.  Outside perfectionism, we know that nothing in life is as simple as that, even though we wish it was: things come in ranges.  There is a difference between 1 mistake in 100 tries, and 100 mistakes in 100 tries, but to a perfectionist, there is no difference.  Since perfection does not exist in reality, perfectionism is a failure to understand and accept reality, a mental health issue that prevents you from looking at reality, which in turn makes it nearly impossible to make the right decisions because you have the wrong information to make decisions with!

By all means continue to pursue perfection, it is a noble pursuit.  All I’m saying is, you should know it’s limitations, and its nature: you should know what you’re doing from an unbiased vantage point.

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