Perfectionism is a topic that rears its head time and again when discussing personalities. Every type may be prone to it in its own unique way, but it’s an integral part of some more than others.
So, what’s wrong with striving for perfection?
To answer that question we have to distinguish between striving for perfection and striving for excellence which are two different things.
With perfectionism, enough is never enough. Perfection is an elusive goal that none can ever reach. Trying to leads to a hamster wheel existence with a lot of criticism attached at the end. You never get to reach the perfect goal and yet, you get to feel bad about it.
Contrast that to seeking excellence where you do the best you can. With excellence, you put your all into preparation, practice and execution of something but do not insist on it being without a blemish. When reaching for excellence, there is a point where you can feel accomplished. Not so with perfectionism.
Recently, a series of rockets created by private industries have exploded on the launchpad. While disappointed, the corporations clearly viewed each mishap as presenting another thing to learn and as a stepping-stone toward a day of excellence.
But never reaching the goal and feeling bad about it is just a start. Here are five other ways perfectionism can work against you:
1. Procrastination: Procrastination is often linked to the fear of not doing something perfectly. Since you feel you must do something perfectly, yet fear you can’t, you put off any attempt at the task to postpone the certain disappointment and pain. Rather than accomplishing “good enough”, you end up doing nothing.
2. Risks: Inherent in every risk is the chance that you might fail. That’s the way risks work. Successful people will tell you time and again how important it is to take risks occasionally. Sometimes, it’s a choice between taking a risk and doing nothing. If perfectionism is your guiding principle, you might forgo taking a reasonable risk to guarantee a perfect outcome. In other words, you may end up doing a lot of nothing instead of reaching out and breaking new ground.
3. Inhibit others: If you are seeking perfection and others around you get caught up in your pursuit, they may fear criticism and rejection and, consequently, hesitate to act when they should. It would be easy to call this “being uncooperative”, but “fear” is the better word. Children are especially vulnerable to such expectations.
4. Intolerance for ambiguity: Sometimes we have to deal with ambiguity before we make progress. Life is not always neatly packaged. But fuzzy ambiguity is not perfect, and there can be little tolerance for it among perfectionists. Perfectionists may stall in the presence of ambiguity.
5. Afraid to ask for help: If a perfectionist puts so much weight on being perfect or appearing perfect, they may be reluctant to ask for help when they need it. Asking for support might appear “weak” or “imperfect”.