Often we people (especially perfectionists) can think of perfectionism as a positive and honorable thing. After all, it is the quest for doing things well and doing things right. The more I look at perfectionism, the more I realize how much I struggle with it. I personally am very far from being perfect. As a High I personality (on the DISC profile) (one who goes with the flow, is more spontaneous, free-spirited, etc.), I realize how my history and strong corrections of any failures have strongly shaped me into an even stronger High D (driver/dominant) profile. While there are good things about this, I also realize the challenges of this. I can hear society whispering in my ear, “You spelled that wrong. Excellence doesn’t make mistakes. You hurt someone’s feelings. You are very aggressive you have to be graceful. You are late, that is rude. Wow! This is really a mess. She isn’t good at that.” etc. There is the critical voice that is so quick to point out every failure and then to frame it in justification that this is about respect, being a good person, being proper, mature and professional, etc. I can hear society rising up in the shameful loss of this discussion, “what has happened to America today? These young people just are not disciplined and respectful like people used to be. It is a shame how young people today make excuses for not doing things well., etc.” Now I am not saying a late person doesn’t need to make every effort to be on time and I am not advocating for the erosion of all the “Emily Post” prodigals and agreements that have been set up, I am simply challenging, that sometimes it stifles and harms a person and is not actually the best way of being. It creates perfectionism.
Take this Brene Brown quote: “Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought…If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feeling of shame, judgment and blame.” One might wonder how that happens and shame on the “perfectionistic” person who is self-destructing and addicted to their perfectionistic ways.
As I reflect, I have great mercy for that person, because I believe we are guilty of developing it in our society by how we shame and treat one another. Do we live with grace, understanding and putting the best construction on one another? Or do we expect people to be perfect and live up to our silent expectations? Perhaps those in leadership roles have even more opportunity to fail in letting people down, being a disappointment as they present as a human and live in their imperfections. Is it not other humans that often make these imperfections unacceptable? That is where the guilt, shame and judgment come from.
What human being wants to live under the critical and cutting eye? So most “good” people will contort themselves to be more “perfect” to try and avoid this painful scrutiny … and thus perfectionism is born. I believe the challenge is not only breaking perfectionism and the flinch behavior to do so, rather deal with the disappointment and reaction others have when you “fail” or are “imperfect”. While you see many quotes and encouragement that progress needs to live over perfection or failure is the mother of learning, etc. generally people in our world today don’t really live that way. We have a great distance to go before the gift of failure and weakness is really celebrated, understood and accepted.
Read this article on excellence vs. perfectionism. It is very good and helps to paint the contrast.
“Excellence is surrender. Perfectionism is consuming.” From – https://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/excellence-vs-perfection/