In our society today, perfectionism is often seen as a desirable trait. It conjures up an image of a person who works hard to get a job done right, so I think it’s important for me to differentiate between a person who is conscientious and thorough and someone cursed with perfectionism.
Let me give you some examples of the kind of perfectionism I’m talking about and see if any of them resonate with your experience:
· You end up not doing something because you don’t think you will do it well enough, so what’s the point?
· You give up quickly if you don’t see results.
· You are very self-critical and have a sense of not being good enough.
· You rarely experience a feeling of achievement.
Perfectionism can be a crippling condition. The majority of clients I see with disordered eating also struggle with perfectionism. We live in a world where we are bombarded with images and messages about what our lives should look like and how we should be experiencing life. It comes back to that dreaded word ‘should’, which I wrote about in my very first blog post.
People with a perfectionistic mindset get locked into their beliefs that if only they could get it right, then they will experience a sense of everything being right with the world. The problem is that we can’t always get it right, whatever it is, and how would we even know if we were getting it right? It’s all subjective anyway.
This is the exhausting cycle of perfectionism. It’s a lie because it suggests that perfection exists, so we are striving for something that isn’t even possible. No matter what you do, it is always possible to do it better, whether it’s cleaning a bathroom, or setting a new 100-metre world record.
Many of us want to feel special and important, so we look for evidence of this, which may be sought in how we look or our careers, relationships and achievements. If we can recognise and accept that we are all perfectly imperfect because we are human, if we can disentangle ourselves from the propaganda, which seems to show everyone else making life look easy and if we are willing to be more open with each other about our struggles, perhaps we can break free from the erosive belief that we simply aren’t being, doing or having enough.