If you believe that perfection and excellence are the same, then you are as mistaken as I used to be. I once thought that it was cool to be a perfectionist. And I would feel a weird sense of fulfillment anytime I was described as such. I also used to believe that the reason I overly paid attention to detail was because I valued excellence. Thankfully, I have experienced a mind shift, and I will share with you, the illusion of perfection.
I used to obsess a lot about my emails, like it was an entry for a Pulitzer prize. Whenever I had to send an email, I would spend forever tweaking and tweaking, until I was satisfied that it was perfect. In fact, I usually won’t start to draft the email until I was in ‘the mood’. When I had the perfect time, perfect words, and perfect idea. I believed it was until then I could express my thoughts meaningfully. When I eventually send the email, and I later discover a mistake, I would sulk over it for days, even when everyone else has forgotten about it.
That used to be one of my struggles with perfectionism. I struggled to attain perfection based on personal standards and coupled with my desire to be recognized for good work. It didn’t help that I mistook the resultant chaotic stress and strain as a creative stretch of my capabilities. And so I repeatedly subjected my mind to undue torture, with the hope that I’d get better over time. Thankfully, I have seen the light.
Excellence is the proof of mastery – mastery of one’s skills and abilities, mastery of one’s self. The aspiration to achieve excellence motivates the human mind to grow. It stretches its abilities and maximizes its potentials. Excellence focuses on performing a task well, based on the reason for the task and the results to be achieved.
Perfectionism on the other hand, is an unhealthy crave for flawlessness, the misguided and extreme pursuit for excellence. It is motivated by the desire to keep up appearances, the failure of which demoralizes the human mind. Perfectionism focuses on performing a task well, based on an unhealthy desire for external validation.
Perfectionism does no one any good. It only strips you of your self-esteem, happiness and overall sense of fulfillment, and it robs you of your time and productivity. And I couldn’t agree more with Anne Lamott who opines that ‘Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life’.
If you find it hard to tolerate your mistakes, or you are impatient with the shortcomings of others. Or if your desire to appear ‘put-together’ is driven by the opinion of others. You are most likely reaching for the illusion called perfection.
Perfection is an illusion!
And I believe the following nuggets will help you have a positive mind shift and overcome the illusion of perfection;
Accept that you are as human as everyone else. This will help you focus less on your flaws and reduce your crave for flawlessness.
Recognize your strengths and build on them. This keeps you focused on the positives and empowers your mind to grow.
Be patient with yourself. Understand that life is a journey with its attendant ups and downs. Appreciate your process of growth and becoming.
Incorporate gratitude as a lifestyle and develop an abundance mindset. And do not lose sight of the good things in your life because you are overly fixated on the things that seem not to work.
Understand that done is better than perfect.
The journey to a better you begins with you. If you can first and most importantly accept and love yourself, you will grow your self-esteem and you will lose the crave for external validation. Understanding and accepting your frailty will help you be more tolerant and accepting of others.
I hope you enjoyed reading this.
What are your thoughts on the Illusion of Perfection? Do you think Perfection is attainable? I’d love you to share your opinion in the comments section.