Perfectionism—Does It Do You Good Or Bad?

Practice makes perfect—a very common expression observed by those who are shedding their blood, sweat, and tears in order to reach their goal. A lot will agree that perfection is unique for every person, but is perfectionism as bad as most people think?

I find always myself trying to reach perfectionism in everything I try to complete. I often ask, is this healthy for me. Sometimes a reach a point where I say; what are you doing, you just wasted time and accomplished nothing while searching for the perfect way.

Perfectionism, as described in the field of Psychology, is a trait typically viewed as striving for high performance standards and aiming for flawlessness. Though others often associate being a perfectionist with having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, perfectionism can be better described as having two components.

The negative side is often referred to as the dark side, which can be detrimental to one’s health and may cause both physical and mental repercussions. The positive side, also known as healthy perfectionism, shows the profits of setting the bar high.

Perfectionism Is Good

It’s true that perfectionism may sometimes be beneficial depending on how it is used. Let’s look at some of the advantages.

1.   Motivation

“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” Marie Angelique Arnauld

A perfectionist sees every day as a motivation to continuously improve a process, not because they want to outsmart the others, but because they see this as an opportunity for progress.

Their standards have been set very high that they do not want to just do it and be done with it, but instead, they want to achieve their goals with flying colours.

2.   Continuity

Resilience is one trait of perfectionism, and the road in the eyes of a fully motivated perfectionist does not stop when the journey gets tough. They see life as a continuous learning process and where every mistake opens another door for improvement. It leads them to become a better version of themselves not just by reaching their goal, but by going through the arduous process to get there.

Have you ever wondered why we now have SMART TVs when years ago, having a huge LED TV is enough to make every household’s movie time worthwhile? It’s because there are people who never stopped aiming for development. That’s how motivated perfectionists work. They reach their satisfaction by constantly developing to reach their goal. Their innovations are the living proofs of their continuous search for perfection. 

3.   Excellence

They say that perfectionism is a continuous pursuit of excellence, and its by-product is success. It comes from passion, and it takes a lot of time. Perfectionism brings consistency in everything you do, and by constantly giving out the best of what you can, you will surely deliver.

I am always fascinated by the people working in the quality control department, especially those working in the car industry. They have to be 100% that all their models’ brakes are working, not 99.99% or less. You may think, isn’t 99.99% already high enough? It may be good enough for some other industries, but for someone who is working with vehicles that 0.01% margin is not acceptable.

There is no small margin that is acceptable when considering that someone’s life could be in danger if they happen to stumble into a vehicle with a 0.01% probability of having a defective brake. They have to ensure that all units don’t have any defects. That is excellence.

… But it has limits.

There is nothing wrong if you really want something to be perfect. However, too much perfection can also lead you to your failure.

Here are the reasons why.

1.   Perfectionism slows you down

Sometimes, being a perfectionist makes you less productive. You always spend too much time on tasks trying to make it flawless. It places you is a position of engaging in a never-ending cycle of searching for the holy grail of perfect that doesn’t really exist. You end up having a large workload that you can no longer handle. Since you have a high standard for things, you always look for a result that meets your criteria of “perfect”, and it leads you to endlessly rework and barely getting the job done.

2.   It prevents you from taking risks.

If you are a perfectionist, you will not be satisfied with everything you achieve until you get the results that you expect. Everything feels like “it is not good enough.” As a result, you will not take a risk to accept any challenges or opportunities because you are constantly worried about the possibility of failure. When you are avoiding the opportunities, you are also avoiding failures. That can be true; however, you didn’t know that you also missed an opportunity that could have led to your success.

3. Stopping when you’re inches from your goal

A neurotic or dark side perfectionist is someone who is constantly dissatisfied in everything they do, is not appreciative of the small victories they achieve, and feel that nothing they do is good enough. They tend to procrastinate and are obsessed with correcting even the tiniest mistake that has no impact on the big picture.

There are times when being a perfectionist can hold you back from your goal instead of moving forward to reach it. It can hinder your ability to reach success in this manner when the barriers are often forgivable, but this apparently does not apply to all.

Now, Break the Barriers

Breaking these barriers can take a little time and practice. It also depends on your willingness to do what I’m about to tell you. Believe me it’s not easy but the reward is so great.

Let me share some tips to sustain your drive and get more out of life.

1.   Disregard your pace—focus on small progress

Try setting a deadline on a small project and stick to them instead of working on something until it is perfect. Learn to appreciate that what you can do is already enough, and you don’t need to be perfect to make progress and reach your goals.

Focusing on small progress keeps you motivated and gives you a mindset that’s susceptible to learning. You will have more reasons to celebrate since your eyes are now open to each accomplishment, no matter how big or small.

2.   Overcome your fear of failure—focus on your small victories.

Why is it easy for us to notice small failures but not small victories? Of course, you can’t always turn a blind eye on minor mistakes, but it is just as important to focus on small wins because it can help you be happier and be more enthusiastic in life.

When I say small wins, it could be as simple as properly cooking a dish that you’ve been trying to learn, or being able to grow the flower that you’ve planted a while ago. Whatever it is, even if it’s just a small victory, learn to appreciate yourself. Doing that can help overcome your fear of failing.

3.   Accept that perfection doesn’t exist—focus on improvements.

Perfection is a non-existing idea that makes people feel that they are a failure. Instead of focusing on perfection, why don’t you try to focus on improvements to help you in reaching your goal? Once you do this, you will be motivated to keep going. As you see yourself improving, it makes you believe that there is nothing that you can’t achieve. While it encourages you to learn from your mistakes.

When you are more focused on your improvements you will be happy in each accomplishment and success you get, no matter how small it is. So, stop beating yourself trying to be perfect. Simply because perfection doesn’t exist. Change your focus and try to have a different perspective. Just keep going and keep on improving.

“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist… Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist” — Stephen Hawking

As John Steinbeck said, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” Too much and uncontrolled perfection often gives us perils than profits. Striving for continuous improvement does not mean you are a perfectionist.

We often chase perfection when in fact, we should chase excellence instead. Remember, pencils have erasers because no one is perfect. We are bound to make mistakes, and these mistakes can be used as our ladder for improvement and success.