By Andrew Leigh
Would anyone seriously argue with the saying nobody’s perfect ? Of course not. And yet throughout the world millions of otherwise sane and intelligent people saddle themselves with a life principle that dooms them to frustration and constant disappointment – the desire to do things perfectly.
You could argue that setting such high standards is good for you, leading naturally to always being at your best. Many people do just that with proud statements like: oh yes, I’m a bit of a perfectionist – achieving anything but the absolute best is failure in my book.
But here’s the perfectionist paradox – as a perfectionist you can simultaneously hold feelings of moral superiority because of the high standards you’ve set yourself, and inferiority because you never meet those standards. Far from leading to happiness and achievement such attitudes are instead deeply negative.
Here are five reasons why:
1. It leads to a constant sense of failure.
Perfection is a vanishingly rare occurrence and perfectionists tend to focus on the flaws rather than the achievement. So no matter how well a task is done, there is always a sense of failure that it wasn’t done even better. An example is the golfer who hits a stunning shot to within a few feet of the pin but feels disappointed with himself for not getting it even closer.