Brene Brown suggests that ‘perfectionism’ is not the same thing as striving to be your best.
“‘Perfectionism’ is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It is a shield. It is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it is the thing that is really preventing us from flight.“
A few years ago, I believed I was a perfectionist. I needed to appear perfect as I believed that I mattered only when I achieved great things. For me it was a positive trait rather than a flaw. Though I worked harder to achieve my personal best, I was never satisfied with the result. I kept telling myself I was not good enough. Insecurity gripped me as I feared disapproval from others.
What makes us aim to be perfect?
It is not clear what causes someone to become a perfectionist. Studies have found that high levels of perfectionism relate to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, deliberate self-harming and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is a behaviour that we learn from our own inadequacy or when we copy someone close to us.
Our idea of perfectionism is based on our past actions. It is a combination of what we learned, imagined, and experienced in the past. It can be exhausting when we are trying to avoid repeat failures, but hopeful when we learn from our success. Depending on the outcome, our persona changes. We can become hypersensitive and defensive.
“When perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking” – Brene Brown
It took me years before I let go of the pressure. I no longer feel guilty when I leave my belongings scattered around the bedroom or dump piles of books on the table. I do not feel embarrassed when my family tells me I am a hoarder. Nor do I feel ashamed to say that I am not good at something which I am not particularly keen on.
And yet, when I am making art, I get frustrated and anxious when it does not turn out as I envisioned in my head. Even though others see a brilliant creation, I am critical of my own work. With advertising and social media, I am constantly reminded of all the things that I fall short. Self-doubt creeps in and I take a nose-dive into the pit of self-pity; I am not good enough.
“Have no fear of perfection- you’ll never reach it” – Salvador Dali
Perfection is not a quest to become the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough, that we should try harder. Perfectionism is unachievable. It is a function of the mind that can instigate defeat or success. It all depends on how we use it. Our goal is to reframe our mindset, shift our focus on living only in the present.
Therefore, we should not strive for perfection and we should not concern ourselves with what others think. The desire to achieve perfection can be a detriment to our health. It can cause us to lose our self-confidence and the ability to perform. Everyone has their own values and standards. Let us not second guess ourselves by trying to emulate others. We might end up becoming our worst enemy.
I am okay with not being perfect, because that is perfect to me.