Written by: David J. Volk, Esq. | March 18, 2018
Simply put, you’re in big trouble if you are a perfectionist. I will tell you a little bit about how it affects you and a better approach that you should take.
Before we address how perfectionism negatively affects you, there is the core principal that can help you on the road to liberation from your self-imposed tyranny. That principal is that you are not the only person whose life is difficult. Everyone is a little or a lot messed up in their own way so quit trying to be perfect. No one around you is perfect.
I see this when I golf. I took it up about four years ago. That first year was seemingly soul crushing. I was really bad. Fortunately, I had patient friends to play with. I wanted to be really good if not perfect and I was regularly embarrassed by my routinely terrible shots. The other guys seemed awesome by comparison. I focused on their great shots and compared them to my terrible shots. I thought I was the ruination of every round we played. I thought I was slowing them down and wrecking the round for them. I felt like the subject of that funny golf commentator who described a guy’s swing as akin to watching an octopus fall through the air.
Then, I had an epiphany. Those guys didn’t care how I was doing. They were focused on their own desire to hit perfect shots each time and they really did not care how I was doing. This made me feel relieved. I persisted playing golf. I did not get angry and quit because I could not be perfect at it. I relaxed and enjoyed getting slowly better. I still have a long way to go but I am seeing steady improvement. (Thank you Dave W. for the great tip on putting a few weeks ago. Simple advice, great results.)
How many of us suffer that way thinking we must be perfect in all things? I am guessing single moms that work full time jobs have it the worst. Pulled in a million different directions and feeling like they never have enough time to handle the myriad task in excellent fashion because there are just too many things to do would wear a person down.
So, how can being a perfectionist affect a person? It doesn’t just make you tired or unhappy. It can kill you.
“Earlier this week, a new analysis in the Review of General Psychology found that perfectionism can literally ruin your life. Perfectionists are more likely to struggle with depression or anxiety, and sadly, they're more likely to commit suicide, the paper argues.
“While we tend to hold up perfectionism as a sign of being a high-achiever, "the average person has very little understanding or awareness of how destructive perfectionism can be," the paper's lead author Gordon Flett, PhD, told New York magazine's Science of Us blog. For many perfectionists, underneath the outward appearance of having it together, they feel like total imposters, which can be really draining, he added.
‘"Perfectionists have an all-or-nothing mindset that's propelled by a crippling fear of failure. They also have what's called conditional self-worth. They think 'I am only a good person if I can achieve these things,'" explains Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. Since true perfection is impossible, "you can see how someone with that mindset could get to a dark place."’
Realizing you are not perfect and do not have to be will be liberating. If you realize you are actively and enthusiastically pursuing your best self instead of the unobtainable perfect self, hope will replace disappointment. That disappointment is comprised of pain and self-criticism. Hope will arise from seeing the path of growth you are walking.
That journey does not mean you won’t make mistakes and bad choices. It will mean you will make fewer and fewer mistakes and bad choices as time goes on. I use expert witnesses in court from time to time. An expert witness has, in simplified terms, more knowledge about a subject than the typical man on the street. When you commit to and walk being on a journey of self-improvement over the path of pain and self-criticism, you become an expert at getting better.
At some point in the future, you will happily wonder how you acquired so much wisdom, peace, talent, and strength. The answer will be that you earned it. One step at a time by encouraging yourself instead of being mean to yourself. Think of yourself as your best friend. Would you constantly tear down your best friend? Of course not. We encourage our friends even if at times we call them to do better and have more faith in themselves. Start being your own best-friend instead of your worst critic.
The matters discussed here are general in nature and are not to be relied upon as legal advice. Every specific legal matter requires specific legal attention.
The law is constantly changing and matters discussed today may not be the same tomorrow. Legal matters are also subject to different interpretations by attorneys, judges, jurors and scholars. No attorney-client relationship is intended or created as a result of matters discussed here. You should consult counsel of your choice if you have any dealings in these areas of the law. Volk Law Offices, P.A. and its attorneys make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the matters addressed.