The Dark Side of Perfectionism

By Jay White

April 4, 2014   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man


Growing up, we all want to be accepted. For some of us, we work hard at a project, making it perfect in our minds, and when we receive praise for it, we associate acceptance with perfectionism. From that point on, we strive to be perfect in all that we do and in all that we are.

But perfectionism isn’t a good thing – in fact it’s detrimental. Here are the many downsides to perfectionism:

Perfection is Subjective
Everyone’s definition of perfection is different. For this reason, trying to be perfect in everything you do is futile. Take for example a project at work. You work hard at making it perfect. But it’s only perfect to you. You have someone else review the work you did and they have some criticisms and suggestions for change. But how can this be you wonder, after all, it’s perfect!

Many perfectionists (myself included) don’t take criticism very well. This is because we tend to see the things we do as being perfect. When someone else doesn’t agree, we take offense to it.

Wasted Time
Related to the example cited above is wasted time. Thinking about the project, you most likely spent countless hours on it, making it perfect. When others review it and see things that need change, you have to go back and work on the project again. Had you simply made the project “good enough” you could have saved yourself hours.

For those non-perfectionists reading this, the term “good enough” might not sit well with you. I am not suggesting perfectionists be lazy or complete half-hearted work, I am suggesting the complete opposite. “Good enough” is the equivalent to great work done by a non-perfectionist. You have to realize that the perfectionist is a time waster by working on things until they see perfection. So “good enough” is still great work with many hours of time saved.

Long Completion Time
When a perfectionist works on a project, they spend countless hours on said project. This means that it will take a perfectionist a longer time to complete a task than others. This can be a career killer. Someone else might be able to complete the assignment in much less time.

Additionally, this issue can carry over into personal life as well. If you are a perfectionist, getting ready will take you much longer than it will for others. This could lead to fights and arguments with spouses and family members, as well as consistently being late for dates, meetings, get-togethers and appointments.

You’ll Probably End Up Alone
Another way perfectionism is bad is when it comes to relationships. Since a perfectionist needs to be perfect, he or she seeks a perfect mate as well. In this sense, they are looking for specific qualities in another person. Another way to put this is that they are looking for their Knight in Shining Armor or their Princess.
The odds of a perfectionist finding someone with all of these exact qualities are extremely rare. As a result, they tend to end up alone.

You’re Afraid to Fail
At some point growing up, many of us begin to fear failing. I’m not certain when this happens or why, but it can be a destructive thing. It is OK to fail. In fact, I encourage failure and look forward to failing.
This isn’t to say my goal is to fail all of the time. But I find that I learn more from failing than I do from succeeding. Failing builds character and helps me grow as a person.

Look at most professional sports teams and you will find failure. Many young teams that make the final series for the championship lose. This is because they don’t know what to expect or how to prepare for the attention and hype. Many that do lose come back in the following years and win it all. They learned from their failure and improved.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Embrace failure when it happens. Review everything that happened and learn from it.

Perfectionists Burn Out and are Unhealthy
Perfectionists tend to be stressed and have high levels of anxiety. Neither of these are good. Perfectionists give everything we do 110% and push ourselves to make things perfect all of the time. Imagine trying to live where everything you do has to be right and perfect. It doesn’t sound very fun does it? It almost sounds unattainable. Welcome to a typical day in the life of a perfectionist.

We place so much stress on ourselves we have health issues. At work, we burn out easily. We think that the job is extremely demanding and time consuming, but in reality, it is us that is extremely demanding. It is us that makes projects lasts weeks upon weeks so that they are perfect.

Final Thoughts
Many people relate perfectionism as a good quality when in fact it is a very destructive quality. If you are a perfectionist, you are better off learning to hit the reset button and give up some control sooner rather than later. The sooner you can learn that everything doesn’t have to be perfect, the happier and healthier you will be.

Author Bio: Don writes for Breath ofOptimism, a blog that focuses on positive thinking and how your thoughts help you to be the best person you can be. He recently released his eCourse, 30 Days to Positive Thinking, which helps people take control of their thoughts and begin to think more positively.

Jay White

I started Dumb Little Man many years ago so great authors, writers and bloggers could share their life "hacks" and tips for success with everyone. I hope you find something you like!

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