By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Shouldn’t striving to be better be a good thing?
The word perfection is used in two very different ways. Striving to be the best you can be and make things better sounds like a good thing. Saying that a summer day or vacation was perfect sounds like a high compliment. But there’s a dark underside to the quest for perfection. When your focus shifts from making things better to an emphasis on detecting flaws, perfectionism can make you and the people around you miserable. Perfectionism can turn out to be a very destructive form of self-sabotage. Here are some ways in which perfectionism may be harming you.
Not doing something until you can do it perfectly is destructive.
More than one writer who waited to send their book off to a publisher until it was perfect died with their book never submitted. Continuing to work on something until it’s perfect, means that that one project will never be finished. Perfectionism is a prime enemy of creativity and productivity. In generating new ideas, it’s essential to allow them to grow and develop, not keep them bottled up until every flaw has been filed away.
Focusing on outside appearances instead of inner quality is harmful.
Whether it’s the perfect look or the latest fashion, focusing on outside appearances rather than the intrinsic qualities of things can cause you a lot of harm. Character, whether it’s in people or things, comes from the wear and tear of life.
Living life by lists, schedules, and absolute rules will make you miserable.
Trying to govern your life by rigid control standards is not a way to be perfect, it’s a way to make you and all those around you miserable. Lots of arbitrary rules don’t improve performance, but it does destroy creativity and spontaneity. A life ruled by long lists of musts and shoulds is oppressive.
Rigid perfectionism means you are never able to relax and enjoy life.
The constant emphasis on perfectionism can end up being a mental filter in which you never see the good in anything but instead always detect a flaw. The focus on perfectionism in everything can rob you of the ability to accept people and things the way they are. Allow each person to be unique and individual rather than require them all to meet your preconceived notion of the correct way to be.
Perfectionism is the father of procrastination.
Saying you will wait until something can be done perfectly, is an alibi for never doing it at all. Perfecting any talent requires repeated practice. Saying you won’t do something until you can do it perfectly, robs you of all the opportunities to practice and improve on what you’re doing.
The search for the perfect prevents you from ever deciding.
This is sometimes called paralysis by analysis. You go on searching for years for the perfect piece of furniture or the ideal automobile, all the while coping with a rickety old chair or a car that needs repeated repair. Part of life is developing the ability to make decisions. Some of those decisions will turn out better than others. But not deciding is a decision to do nothing. Rarely is doing nothing the perfect solution.
The belief in the perfect prevents you from changing your mind.
Don’t let your belief that there is only one correct way to do something prevent you from seeing other opportunities when they present themselves. The “correct” way of keeping financial records on green column paper from the nineteen fifties is a very inefficient way to keep those same records in the modern computer era. New technologies, new materials, and new environments all call for changing your mind. Businesses that fail to change with the times eventually ceased to exist.
Perfectionism says if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.
Trying to do everything yourself severely limits what you can accomplish. Perfectionists can be very hard to live with. Since they believe the way they do it is the one and only way it should be done, they find it very difficult to delegate anything. Whether it’s at work or in relationships, there needs to be a sharing of tasks. If you insist that you will do everything, you’ll become cynical about other people and risk ending up living and working alone. Loneliness is not on the path to improvement.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.
What if your family secrets put you in danger?
Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders, see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.