Perfect. It’s such a pretty word. In fact, I should probably just outright admit that I love the word “perfect.” I love when things work out perfectly and I love when I don’t find any mistakes in something. Not that it happens all that often—or who am I kidding, almost ever—but when it does, sigh. Perfection.
Most of us use this word without even really thinking about it. And, many of us strive to be it without giving much thought to that either. Since we all know we don’t live in a perfect world, or anything even remotely close to it, why shouldn’t we strive for perfection? The answer lies in a plethora of research that shows perfection ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
That’s right, you guessed it; striving for perfection is a form of that dirty little word I keep bringing up. In equation format, it looks something like this:
striving for perfection + effect on the body = constant stress
In fact, people who struggle with perfection can actually be prone to health problems as the result of constantly living in stress mode.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? I think many of us assume that highly perfectionistic people tend to have the best of everything. They often have high-powered jobs, or at least excel in the one they do have; they often drive expensive cars; and they often wear nice clothes that hang in the closets of pretty nice houses. Strangely, however, it’s the opposite of what you might think; perfectionistic people often miss the mark when it comes to their health, the results of which can be devastating.
So what’s the problem with having extremely high or “perfect” standards? Well nothing…if you don’t take into consideration the fact that it often plagues its victims with the inability to relax or find peace. According to ScienceDaily, high achievers usually have imperfect health due to the toll this lifestyle often takes emotionally, physically and relationally. It’s what happens when continually striving for perfection takes a turn for the worse that leads down a dark and lonely road with unrealistic expectations of self and others.
In fact, perfectionism can often be linked to depression, eating disorders, marital problems and more. Instead of propelling people forward, it can unfortunately do the opposite and inhibit them from achieving long-term success. In addition, perfectionism can almost trap people as it interferes with being able to delegate, tricking the overachiever into thinking they are the only person who can do a job right. You can see then how this begins to affect the health of people who cannot get out from under the pitfalls of perfection; the pressure rises, chronic stress sets in, and everything from the emotional to the relational side of life is negatively impacted.
How do you know if you’re a perfectionist? York University psychology professor Gordon Flett devised a list of telltale signs:
*Ten Top Signs Your a Perfectionist
1. You can’t stop thinking about a mistake you made.
2. You are intensely competitive and can’t stand doing worse than others.
3. You either want to do something “just right” or not at all.
4. You demand perfection from other people.
5. You won’t ask for help if asking can be perceived as a flaw or weakness.
6. You will persist at a task long after other people have quit.
7. You are a fault-finder who must correct other people when they are wrong.
8. You are highly aware of other people’s demands and expectations.
9. You are very self-conscious about making mistakes in front of other people.
10. *You noticed the error in the title of this list.
What then should you do if you happen to find that most (or all) of these signs describe you to a “T”? Well, for starters, acknowledging there is a problem is half the battle. I am certainly not saying you should scrap everything, stop caring about how well you do and start shooting for below average. And quite frankly, if you’re a perfectionist, the mere suggestion of even trying to live like that sounds absolutely ludicrous. I am, however, saying that perhaps it’s time to rethink how important it is for everything to always work out perfectly.
To aid you in your quest to loosen up a little, consider this quote that’s recently become a new favorite of mine:
Rather than aiming for being perfect, just aim to be a little bit
better today than you were yesterday.
Take some time this month to sort out the “really importants” from the “not as importants.” In other words, identify the things that really do not have any room for error, and then go from there. Think about any areas of your life where you might be imposing unrealistic expectations and how that might be affecting your health and/or your relationships. Is it possible that pride—assuming you are the only one who can do something right—has reared its ugly head? Or perhaps, has the fear of failure or what others might think gotten a hold of you?
By identifying certain aspects of your life that aren’t exactly where you want them to be, you allow some room to see how different things could be, by simply beginning to rethink your priorities. You never know, it just might change your life!