What is Perfection?


With the start of the new year, there are so many different adverts doing the rounds, that can make us feel that just because it is January, we are going to be able to make all the changes we want to make and reach all the resolutions we have been setting for the last few years.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that January is a great time to reflect, set intentions / goals and have the motivation of a fresh start but I do feel that a lot of the adverts and hype that does the rounds can actually make us feel like we need to achieve perfect lives, with a perfect body, perfect relationships, a perfect job, perfect house, perfect everything. It can also distract us from focusing on what we really want and need in our lives.

This has led me to want to answer the question “Why are we always striving to be perfect?”

The definition of perfection is “The action or process of improving something until it is faultless”.

Usually during our childhoods, we begin to form the belief within ourselves that we are not good or worthy enough due to various situations that may have occurred.

Many of us have also been taught that we must avoid failure wherever possible, and we all ultimately fail at something, which then forces us to strive for perfection instead. We start using perfectionism as a defence mechanism and set really high standards for ourselves so we can avoid the pain of being judged. We start striving for everything to be faultless.

Further to this we now live in the age of social media with so many images being seen daily, all showing what appears to be perfect lives (even though we all know logically that it is a highlight reel and not really a reflection of reality it can be very triggering).

This can all start a viscous cycle where we feel like we are always falling short and can really affect our self-esteem.

There is no such thing as perfect

There really is no such thing as perfect as my idea of perfect is completely different from your idea of perfect, but we are all striving for the same, often unachievable standards.

The things that are usually imperfect we are being pushed to try to get to perfection by being made to feel like we must just work a little bit harder, for example, at our relationships, our jobs, our parenting.

The issue with this is Perfectionism is a risk factor for obsessive behaviour, and can lead to depression, substance abuse, working too much, chronic stress, to name a few.

We feel like we are lacking so we push ourselves to go to the other end of the spectrum as it is in our nature to run away from what we think we currently don’t have.

How can I stop this vicious cycle?

We all need to stop being so hard on ourselves and find perfection in the imperfections of live. Here are some tips for managing Perfectionism:

  • Know yourself – this is something I will recommend time and time again as I find we sometimes get too busy in our day to day life that we neglect to take the time to fully get to know ourselves. We are also changing and growing in different stages in life so if we aren’t taking time to check in with ourselves, we often can allow other people’s ideas of what they want in life to become our own.
  • Change your perspective – perfection is subjective, someone else’s idea of perfection may not actually be what is right for you. You need change your perception and stop putting so much pressure on yourself to reach an ideal which is more than likely unattainable or may not even make you happy. If everything was always perfect, how would we grow?  
  • Recover from comparitinitus – it’s a real thing, stop comparing yourself to strangers on the internet. As I mentioned already, most of what you see on social media is a highlight reel and does not reflect the reality of life. As much as it may seem that some people have perfect lives, I can ensure you that we all have something we are dealing with.
  • Wabi Sabi – this is a Japanese practice of finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the cycle of growth and decay. It is a lovely concept as it focuses on the fact that everything around us, including our bodies and material objects, are in a process of returning to dust and to appreciate the imperfections around us.
  • Look deeper and let it go – are you wanting everything to be perfect due to fears and doubts that you are trying to avoid. Do you have any limiting beliefs, like “I’m not good enough” that are making you strive for perfection? Is now the time to uncover whatever it may be and let it go?
  • Stop linking your self-worth to outside factors – learning to love ourselves again and stop looking for outside approval or acceptance is one of the best ways to get over perfectionism.

I hope you find this helpful and will leave you with this from Brene Brown (who also writes a lot about our need to be perfect, so I also recommend you check out her books) – “Imperfections are not inadequacies, they are reminders that we are all in this together”.  

Are you struggling with the need to be perfect? Do you have any other tips of what you do to manage this?  

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