The Pitfalls of Trying to Be Perfect

There is a reason that the harder you strive for perfection in any one thing, the more unattainable it seems. It’s like reaching for the perfect leaf upon the surface of a lake. The very act of repeatedly slipping your hand in the water often pushes it further away.

By seeking perfection, you may find that you’re no longer living in the moment and that you feel entirely spent by the effort.

Here are some things to think about before committing to such a quest.

There’s no such thing as perfection

Perfect is the enemy of good” is a quote usually attributed to Voltaire. He actually wrote that the “best is the enemy of the good” (il meglio è nemico del bene) and cited it as an old Italian proverb in 1770, but the phrase was translated into English as “perfect” and made its way into common parlance in that form.

Although striving for your level best is admirable, aiming for perfection can be seen as a type of hubris.

It can be off-putting to some. It can make those close to you feel uncomfortable over time, especially, if they begin to feel they can’t measure up to such exactingly high standards.

You might find more satisfaction in fully embracing the notion that we are all works in progress, and therefore on an arc of personal, professional, and perhaps even spiritual improvement.

In other words, you may find yourself, in time, transforming into something resembling the leaf you once attempted to draw from the water.

Be good at receiving without giving

It may be challenging for you to accept help, time, or attention that others have offered. You may feel an obligation to reciprocate and return their unsolicited generosity in one way or another.

However, try to remember that people offer support because they like you. Or perhaps it allows them to feel wanted, needed or useful in a time when they find it meaningful to be needed. Accept it graciously and in the spirit in which it was given.

You don’t have to wait for others to offer their assistance.

If you get to a place where you anticipate becoming overwhelmed, plan to reach out for help. The idea is to do this before it gets to a tipping point where it’s too late.

Take the time to decide how to best delegate. For example, if you have dependable people in your life let them know you’re in need. They can most likely help you accomplish more than you ever could on your own.

Delegate or ask for help

You don’t have to wait for others to offer their assistance.

If you get to a place where you anticipate becoming overwhelmed, plan to reach out for help. The idea is to do this before it gets to a tipping point, where it’s then too late.

Take the time to decide how to best delegate. For example, if you have dependable people in your life, let them know you’re in need. They can most likely help you accomplish more than you ever could on your own.

Stay aware of your own needs and energy

It’s so important to not allow yourself to be depleted by others or in any efforts to create a “perfect” meal, gathering or party.

If you feel this happening it might be a good time to take a deep breath and go recharge. 

For instance, you might take a long walk in the woods, go to the cinema or spend the day in Central Park. Do anything that allows you to take your mind off things that drain you.

Final thoughts

Perfection is a chimera; ethereal, wispy and unattainable.

You may be setting yourself up for long-term frustration and disappointment were you to fixate on it for too long.

There are so many ways to measure progress and achievements that have little, if anything, to do with perfection.

It can be a good idea to occasionally stop and make certain that the yardstick you’re using represents the most enduring and unassailable core values you possess. Otherwise, any progress may begin to feel stilted, empty, or short-lived.

Lisa Ryan LPC

Learn something you don’t know yet.

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