Of mindsets and attitudes

  • The illusion of perfection

It was sweltering hot. The sun had no intention of showing any mercy today. I felt as if I was half baked already. I was already late in picking up my daughter from her school. With one eye on the road, I was switching through radio channels, when the words:

“Being a perfectionist is actually a drawback” caught my attention and I stopped channel shuffling.

Soon I got lost in my own thoughts, realising how many of us use the phrase “I’m a perfectionist” quite often and I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly it meant to be a perfectionist?

A perfectionist wants everything to be “perfect”. Perfect? Is there anything that is actually perfect? The word perfect in simple terms means faultless, absolute or complete. Taking this further a perfectionist is someone who refuses to accept anything short of perfection.

In this regard the word “Perfect” becomes very subjective. Something which is flawless for some people might be seen as something faulty by others. By saying “I want everything to be perfect or I’m a perfectionist we are limiting ourselves and closing ourselves to new experiences. It is a limiting belief system where we restrict ourselves by setting our own glass ceiling.

Perfectionists have a few common traits such as; they will generally be finding fault in almost everything and they tend to set very high standards for themselves in mostly all spheres of life. The downside is; when faced with failure they tend to be very hard on themselves. This leads to high stress and other disorders. They have an inner voice which is constantly telling them they aren’t good enough. They could’ve/should’ve done better. They don’t deserve this/that.

The critical inner voice in a perfectionist makes a case for a way of life which is self-defeating. It holds one back from being ones most productive and creative self. It hinders interaction in relationships and in professional areas. The irony is while everyone wants to be their best; perfectionists when faced with roadblocks tend to have severe emotional outbreaks. Serena Williams is one famous personality with this issue. She has been known to break her rackets – and not just that but her outbursts have even cost her the game at times.

There are many studies that suggest that the higher the perfectionism criteria, the more psychological disorders one is going to suffer — disorders such as hypertension, depression, anorexia, obsessive compulsive disorder, insomnia, chronic fatigue, hoarding and suicide are just a few of them.

Now let’s not confuse perfectionism with some other positive traits in a personality. In some cultures perfectionism is highly valued and appreciated but researchers have found that it’s the qualities of being conscientious which are mislabeled as perfectionism. The difference being that a conscientious person sets high goals for themselves works hard and strives for excellence. In this process the person doesn’t blame oneself if things don’t work out. Making mistakes, owning them and learning from them are a part of life and the process of growing up. Perfectionists on the other hand avoid making mistakes and thereby hinder themselves in reaching their goals.

I’ve noticed many a times that a perfectionist would look down upon a person who isn’t one of their kind. We all have come across people who seem to breeze through life and stir a feeling of jealousy among those who can’t or don’t. These breezy people are a complete opposite of perfectionists. They are easy going and laid back. It’s not that they don’t have problems to face but their attitude towards these problems makes it easy for them to solve the issue-or so it seems.

The “non perfectionists” have an attitude that might be confused with being carefree but in actual case they usually take things in a stride. Their feathers aren’t ruffled easily so to say. And when the going gets tough they just roll up the sleeves and get dirty readily. Such people are no less ambitious, as mentioned earlier conscientiousness shouldn’t be confused with perfectionism and neither should being ambitious. It’s the way a certain situation is handled and a certain mindset towards life.

In todays’ day and age perfectionism is on the rise. Digitalisation, AI are all aids in the pursuit of perfection. Competition in education and jobs has increased, so has the fear of failure. From students to young professionals to working mothers all strive to a level of perfectionism set in their minds. The social media is also playing its due role in promoting the ideals of perfectionism. Everyone on Facebook and Instagram is living a “perfect” happy successful life. Only the person posting pictures knows what goes on behind scenes.

Some form of perfectionist has crept up in almost all of us. Whether it’s good or bad, in my opinion, depends on how much we allow our inner critical self to dominate our thinking process. We need to allow imperfections in our life and accept them as a part of us.

In life rarely do things go as planned. Life always tends to take its own course. It will keep a trick or two under its sleeve only to take it out when we least expect it. It brings with it all perfections and imperfections.

That’s what makes life interesting.

PS: Remember why we love taking the roller coasters? The plunge makes our heart beat faster and the ride up takes our breath away. That pretty much sums up life!