Is Perfectionism the Perfect Solution?
Claude Monet was a perfectionist.
Well it worked for him then didn't he? One of the world's most famous impressionist painters and one of my favourites. Maybe, but in the process he destroyed many paintings, even 15 destined to open an exhibition.
He concluded his ' life had been nothing but a failure'.
I read that as many as two in five children and adolescents are perfectionists. Is that a good thing? I don’t think so. It doesn’t mean that the generation to come is more accomplished, it actually means we are undermining our own potential and causing ourselves more anxiety into the mix.
Making mistakes is the way we learn and grow. It helps us build resilience, be part of a team, being ok with not always being the winner. Let’s face it we can’t all win at everything. Perfectionism is a self-defeating way to journey through life.
Michael Jordan, famously said ”I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
We have to make mistakes to succeed.
Here’s the thing. So many see perfectionism as a positive. It’s seen as a compliment. In fact, I remember using it often in the interview process as a (smart, so I thought) negative or weakness. Little did I recognise it truly was a weakness.
We might argue having high standards is a good thing. It brings self-discipline, focus, attention to detail. I am not disagreeing. If we don’t achieve the thing we set out to achieve and approach it with a ‘disappointed but that’s Ok attitude’ then that’s different to the ‘ I’m a failure’ voice – that’s when it becomes problematic. It’s the reaction to the not getting it done or achieved that is the key.
That inner voice that criticises and apportions blame at every opportunity is not helpful or healthy. Perfectionists also give up easily and experience more anger, again not helpful habits when success is the aim.
The thing is that perfectionists muddle up their performance with their own self so when they don’t succeed they don’t just feel disappointment (and add the 'but that’s OK' ) they feel shame at themselves.
So what can we do about it then?
Acknowledge that we are human. We thrive when we learn. Not achieving something gives us a fantastic opportunity to learn, adapt and do differently next time.
Be proud of what you have achieved, rather than critical of what you haven’t
Be kind to ourselves, Challenge that little voice when it starts being mean.
Be aware of Social Media and the impact that has on your mental health.
Know that good is good enough.
Just think for a minute back to Monet, how many more beautiful paintings would we have to appreciate if he knew all of his paintings were good enough?
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