The Downside of Perfection - The Opposite of Loving Yourself

By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC

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At the end of the work day, most people are exhausted and want to rest. Rest is good and restorative. When you are on a quest for perfection, there is no such thing as rest. One is constantly in pursuit of an ideal, a quality, a body image. It’s like being on a hamster wheel. This is the downside of perfection.

“Life is, at its best, a flowing, changing process in which nothing is fixed.” -Carl Rogers

What is Perfection?

Perfection could possibly be described as the attainment of a state where you are lacking nothing. It sounds quite ethereal and spiritual. In that sense, it would be something that you would continue to strive for but never attain fully. With spiritual goals, the journey is what brings satisfaction. With perfection, the journey is just another frustration that means “you aren’t worthy yet.” Who wants to live like that?

Some people do, whether they know it or not. For many reasons, they are not happy (subjective) or satisfied with their lives. The focus is on everything outside: finances, career, relationships, children, fame and the like. It can lead to the pursuit of more goals but without an increase in satisfaction. Why? When people focus on the outside to validate their existence - who they are-instead of their internal qualities, they are standing on sinking sand in regard to long term happiness.

“Strive for progress, not perfection.” -Unknown

5 Reasons Perfection is not a Worthwhile Goal

Isn’t it time you let yourself off the hook? Realistically, you can be the best you can be but being perfect is subjective and often unattainable in most situations. Even if it is attainable in some areas of life, it is not “maintainable”.

1. Perfection driven by fear – You may feel, deep down that, if you don’t maintain a certain look or attitude, you might not be loved or be rejected. At some point, you may want to ask yourself, if it is worth it.  Does this drive for perfection elevate or diminish you as a person?

2. Perfection is frustrating – The pressure can build up like heat in a pressure cooker which can explode without some relief. Always pursuing but never achieving, or at least not giving yourself credit for what you have achieved, can lead to strife, depression and feeling deeply unsatisfied.

3. Unresolved issues can fuel your drive – For example, sometimes our deep-rooted issues and unsolved hurt can mask themselves as perfectionism. For example, maybe your parents divorced and you think it was your fault. Even if you are an adult, if you haven’t worked through those feelings, you may find that you strive to be perfect so that doesn’t happen to you. Being perfect won’t heal or resolve these feelings. As the saying goes, what we resist persists. Work through your feelings. Heal them so that you can move forward.

4. Perfection is conditional – Love should not be-from others and especially from yourself.

5. Love doesn’t factor into it – However, it is love that leads to acceptance and real change if you want it. As Carl Rogers says, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am then I can change.”

The pursuit of perfectionism brings pain, dissatisfaction and many times, depression. Work on self-acceptance for long term happiness.