Nothing can root you in mediocrity quite like perfectionism. Sure, it sounds like a great quality, closely related to excellence and capability, but give it some thought, and it might start to look different. Reaching for perfection makes you feel good – you’re going for the ultimate best, you feel competent, special, you’re up for the big challenge, all fired up with showing your greatness… for a few moments. Then you start beating yourself into a race with no true meaning. What is perfection? How do you know you’ve reached it? How do you measure it? Why perfect?
Perfection is an ideal, and its definitions vary from person to person. The subjectivity of these personal definitions may not show in theory (especially if the source of reference is the same dictionary), but it does show in practice – which is serious and has heavy consequences. The problem is that, for the perfectionist, satisfaction equals perfection. If perfection is not attained, there is no satisfaction. Perfectionism means reaching for perfection, not actually achieving it. You work, feel like you have to do better, and when “better” happens it’s not enough, so you’re going after a new “better”. Good is not perfect, so, for a perfectionist, good is not enough.
I had my own personal struggle with perfectionism. I’m still not completely “cured”, but it’s faded significantly, and it doesn’t get in my way as it used to. Hand on my heart, perfectionism has been one of the most damaging attitudes I ever had. It made me miss important goals and deadlines, sinking me in a sea of unfinished (but ever “improving”) projects. Of course I felt miserable – after all, I had the best intentions, I was on the “noble” quest for perfection. Thankfully I’ve learned my lesson.
Every person is great at some things, and disastrous at others. But we’re also decent at some things, and somewhat unskilled at others. Some tasks don’t need perfection, they just need to be done appropriately, and then there are some other things that… just need to be done.
Perfectionism is where ambition, fear and self-doubt meet to set a pretentious trap right under your feet. There is nothing to gain in a game which doesn’t bring you self-esteem and satisfaction, but only puts you in a position where you’re not good enough no matter how hard you try. You should enjoy yourself, your life, the results of your endeavors, and you should care about yourself.
You’re good, you’re great – and that is more than perfect.