ARE you a perfectionist? If you answered "yes" then take a moment to decide what perfection is for you; it is likely that your definition does not match anyone else's.
Perfectionists believe that perfectionism is a good thing and something to strive for. That everything they do has to be outstanding and to the highest possible standard just to be deemed acceptable in their terms.
Of course, it's great to have high standards and want to do things to the best of your ability. However, in reality, perfection is a moment in time. A perfect cake … before the first slice is cut. A perfect sunset … before the sun dips below the horizon. They cannot be repeated because they have come and gone and with them the perfection of that moment.
While we're busy making sure everything is perfect, we may be blind to the impact of our approach on ourself and others, and the price of perfectionism can be high. We may become exhausted, unhappy, distracted, unsettled and unfulfilled. It can lead to a drop in productivity, troubled relationships, low self-esteem, anxiety and, over time, even depression.
It may be that we expect the same exacting standards from those around us, whether family or co-workers, and anything less than that will be disappointing and frustrating. This can lead to others feeling that they cannot match those standards and therefore not even bothering which places further pressure on the perfectionist. It creates an arduous cycle and one that can be hard to break.
What has triggered this behaviour? Where has it come from? It might be backed up by a belief we have about ourself which may have come from a previous experience. For example, if you were ever told that your best efforts, however good they were, weren't good enough, you may still carry that as a belief. Or you may have grown up around someone who had perfectionistic traits which then set standards for you.
Whatever it is for you, consider the following:
Substitute perfectionism for achievement or excellence. Do you feel a weight lift?
Embrace Wabi-sabi. A Japanese philosophy of accepting transience and imperfection. An example might be a cracked vase where the crack is filled with gold in the belief that, when something has suffered damage and has history, it becomes more beautiful. Just like people, really.
Or reflect on the words of Leonard Cohen's song, Anthem. "Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."
Nick Bennett and Rowena Hardy are facilitators, performance coaches and partners of Minds Aligned: http://www.mindsaligned.com.au.
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