Good Things Utah: The Problem with Perfection

Relationship Coach Val Baldwin talks about the problem with perfection in our series on Utah's Perfect Problem
Val Baldwin, CPC talks about the problem with perfection in our series Utah's Perfect Problem.

Our Utah culture seems to have elevated the quest for being perfect…..especially for women. When someone is described as a perfectionist they are frequently admired and envied. A perfectionist, however, is usually someone living in a constant state of dissatisfaction and that isn't healthy. To perfectionists, no one, including their spouse, children, family, friends and themselves ever measures up to their impossible standards. Perfectionists spend their lives never being happy with what they have accomplished always wanting things to be perfect.
In many situations where 70% perfection could be good enough, people who are perfectionists think they have to achieve 110%. Then, if they only achieve 95%-100% perfection, they feel devastated, believing they are failures.

What Is Perfectionism?

  • The irrational belief you and/or your environment must be perfect.
  • When you are constantly fearful of making mistakes which you believe will lead to humiliation or criticism.
  • When you demand perfection and are intolerant of other's mistakes.
  • When you never seem to have enough time to do your best. This is because you focus so much on completing every unimportant detail of a task so perfectly that you never get around to getting the task completed.
  • The belief that no matter what you attempt it is never "good enough" to meet your own or others' expectations.

Why Perfectionism Will Cause You Harm

It creates low self-esteem, guilt and depression. Perfectionists have low self esteem because they can't accept themselves as they really are - imperfect….as all humans are. There is a huge difference between failing at something you do and thinking that means you are a failure as a person.

There is a close correlation between perfectionism and depression. Antidepressant drugs are prescribed in Utah at nearly twice the national average. One of the reasons can be tied to the fact so many Utah women feel they have to be perfect in every aspect of their life.

It will stop you from being happy. You can't be happy if you cannot accept the world or your life as it is. You will constantly try to make everything perfect, which is impossible. Happiness depends on acceptance and joy in the present, with how things are now.

It will hurt your relationships. Perfectionists create stress on themselves and on their friends or partners and are very demanding. Relationships need give and take and acceptance of one another's faults is a big part of that

How To Overcome Perfectionism:

  • Tip 1: Make a Cost-Benefit Analysis: Make a list of all the ways that being a perfectionist is hurting you and those around you. You will be more motivated to shed those tendencies.
  • Tip 2: See the positive. If you find something that you do not like about yourself or your work, look for 5 other qualities that you do like. This will balance out your critical focus and may start a positive attitude.
  • Tip 3: Instead of focusing on how people fail to reach your standards, ask yourself what did they do that you're grateful for.
  • Tip 4: Accept that the ideal is only a guideline or goal to be worked toward, not to be achieved 100%.
  • Tip 5: Make friends with your imperfections and those of others. Instead, create a new label for your less than perfect performances. You can call them, "an opportunity to improve in the future". And most important, give yourself a lot of credit for having the courage to try, and try again.
  • Tip 6: Recognize that the human condition is one of failings, weakness, deviations, imperfections and mistakes. Accept yourself as a human being.
  • Tip 7: Strive to find pleasure in what you do, not perfection.

If you would like more information from Val Baldwin, please visit her website.

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