Most people would consider having high standards a good thing. Striving for excellence can show that you have a good work ethic and strength of character. High standards can also push you to reach your peak level of performance. For example, athletes often train long and hard to reach excellence in their sports.
Perfectionism, on the other hand, involves a tendency to set standards that are so high that they either cannot be met, or are only met with great difficulty. Perfectionists tend to believe that anything short of perfection is horrible, and that even minor imperfections will lead to catastrophe.
Beautiful celebrities adorn the covers of magazines, but they’re airbrushed. They pitch diet programs and exercise routines they credit with helping them achieve their perfect looks. And television shows that feature plastic surgery want us to believe we can be perfect too. Perfection seems to be an achievement that we should strive for at all costs.
We even see it at work and school. It’s no longer about meeting expectations; now we must exceed expectations, whether it’s working longer hours or getting a higher grade point average. And in our personal lives, we need more “likes” and “shares” on social media. But perfection is not practical for everyday life.
The Cost of the High
While being deemed perfect feels amazing in the moment, that high doesn’t come without a cost. As the saying goes, “The higher they climb, the harder they fall,”and here’s what leads to the fall: First, there is the stress and sacrifice that come with striving for perfection. It’s all consuming. Then there is the life imbalance created by the desire to be perfect. Well-being is thrown to the wayside. Once success is achieved, there is the pressure to maintain that success. Then there is the fear of being dethroned by someone more successful. It’s an uphill battle and that’s because there will always be someone who is smarter, more attractive, stronger and younger waiting in the wings.
Even the perfectionist makes mistakes. And when they do, anger, fear and embarrassment sent in. These are all toxic feelings and they hurt your mental and physical health. So what is a highly driven person supposed to do?
Be Excellent, Not Perfect
Rather than needing to be perfect, consider finding joy and satisfaction in being excellent. Being excellent can be more rewarding and achievable than being perfect. It’s also less stressful. If you strive for perfectionism, you set yourself up for failure. But striving for excellence allows you to enjoy the process of achieving a goal. Enjoy the journey, not the destination.
The Work You Do
Ultimately, life is about the work we do. Whether at work or play, we spend the majority of our time working towards a goal. If you tend to be a perfectionist, ask yourself, “What do I like about what I’m doing? If it took me twice as long to complete this goal, would I still want to pursue it?” The answers to these questions can be the epiphanies you need to realign yourself with what is really important. When it comes to your goals, stop thinking about the finish line. You won’t get there unless you concentrate on the race.
Be Realistic, Be Happy
Remember, you don’t have to be a 10. An 8 is still exceptional and realistic. If you strive for excellence instead of perfection, you’ll notice a decline in stress and self-doubt. Be happy, be content and be excellent!