Jump to the following topics:
- What is perfectionism?
- We are
encouraged to be perfectionists.
- Perfection is not a
for eliminating perfectionism.
What is perfectionism? It is
the obsessive idea we should strive for "perfection" in our actions,
our products, and ourselves.
encouraged to be perfectionists. This encouragement comes from
- Our parents. Some parents withhold love and acceptance when a
child fails to meet the parents' ideals; in some cases, those
ideals are excessively high or are simply unattainable at the
child's current age. When those children become adults, they
continue the tradition by imposing unreachable standards upon
themselves, in an ongoing attempt to prove their worthiness to
themselves, their parents, and other people (from whom they expect
to receive the approval which their parents did not give to them).
- Our religions. Some religions say that we are inherently
flawed, and that we cannot achieve perfection. Other religions say
that perfection is indeed the goal; the students are expected to
seek perfection in various ways:
- Perfection of thought. The ideal is that we always have
thoughts of kindness, generosity, forgiveness, etc.
- Perfection of emotion. The ideal is that we express only
the emotion of love.
Perfection is not a
- Perfection is impossible. We are imperfect people in an
imperfect world. Even if a project is perfect in one way (e.g.,
perfect spelling), it cannot be perfect in every aspect,
satisfying every possible desire of all parties. Obviously, there
is no point in having a goal which is innately unachievable.
- Perfectionism is a waste of our resources. It diminishes
productivity by binding us to a project compulsively; instead, we
can perform it to a level of adequacy (and even "excellence"), and
then move on to another project. At some point, our effort is
"good enough" for the purposes of the endeavor, and any further
exertion adds nothing of value; as Joseph Kennedy said, "Once
you've done your best, the hell with it." Without achieving
perfection, we can generally attain our goal; for example:
Perfectionism evokes unnecessary psychological responses. For
example, it might evoke shame, fear, anxiety, stress, anger, and
frustration. To avoid these painful responses, we might repress
our awareness of them, and of the mistakes which triggered
them. If we cannot look at our mistakes, we cannot learn from
them, and so we will make more of them.
Perfectionism can cause us to avoid new challenges. We might
not attempt to learn a new skill at all, if we believe that we
will not be able to meet our standard of perfection. Thus, we
limit ourselves to the activities with which we are already
familiar and competent.
Perfectionism can lead to a vain over-assessment of our
importance. In most cases, our imperfection will not destroy an
entire project. We generally make allowances for mistakes (and
Perfectionism distracts us from the task. In order to perform
the task well, we need to maintain an intimate, mindful,
moment-by-moment contact with the task's unique requirements. In
contrast, perfectionism distracts us from the task itself
by imposing various distractions:
- We can have success, even if we are not the best in our
field. There is room for only person at the top, but the rest
of us can still have satisfaction, a good income, and a full
life. (Note: Even the person at the top is not perfect.)
- We can have love, even if the person has flaws. Despite
those imperfections, the person is ideal for us.
Perfectionism keeps us from enjoying our accomplishments.
Perfectionists rarely feel satisfaction, or pride, or a sense of
completion. Instead, they look at the flaws, and so they dislike
the process, the results, and themselves.
Perfectionism damages our self-esteem. The ego's self-esteem
is established when our accomplishments match our values -- but
perfection is an unattainable value, so our self-esteem is
constantly injured. We attempt to ease the pain of that injury by
trying to be more "perfect," by comparing our faults to the bigger
faults of other people, by criticizing ourselves cruelly (as if
the additional pain would motivate us toward perfection), and by
trying to "prove" our fundamental validity through superhuman
accomplishment. In contrast, if our self-esteem is healthy, we
feel good about ourselves, and about having done our best; the
attainment of each reasonable goal further strengthens our
Perfectionism inflicts an unfair standard in human
relationships. We are uncomfortable around people who judge us
against the standards of perfection. In contrast, we enjoy
being around people who make us feel adequate and safe but still
challenged toward excellence in our own ventures.
Perfectionism is a logical "category error." In the study of
logic, a "category error" occurs when we assign something to the
wrong "category." In the case of perfectionism, we try to assign
the trait of perfection (or "perfectability") to human beings;
this error occurs because we intuit the perfection of soul,
and we mistakenly try to re-create that quality within our human
life. Perhaps the correct course is to seek the experience of soul
itself, and to acknowledge that human life cannot be perfected,
nor is it meant to be perfected. We are not in this world
to become perfect; soul is already perfect. Instead, we are here
to learn about the archetypes (i.e., the various aspects of
spirit); the learning experience includes many errors (because we
are experimenting with the archetypes in their various real-life
manifestations). Perfectionism does not come from the soul; it
comes from the mind. The mind creates such goals in the "vacuum"
which exists when we are not receiving input from intuition; our
intuition would lead us from one experience to another -- honoring
the human and material needs of the moment, but not being bound to
the irrelevant standard of perfectionism.
The world's dynamics do not support perfection. As we approach
perfection, we increase the requirements of energy; an infinitely
perfect creation would require an infinite amount of energy to
sustain it. Any attempt to achieve a perfect creation is
automatically balanced by destructive forces which seek only to
break down (or "cripple") the creation to a sustainable level
which does not deprive other creations of the resources. For
example, as prosperous nations seek material perfection (i.e.,
"everything that money can buy"), they consume a disproportionate
amount of resources, thereby causing material suffering (and
protest) in other nations.
Perfectionism is a denial of our human condition. Mistakes are
a normal part of our common experience of life. When we accept
them humbly as badges of our finitude, we might even
appreciate the reminder that we don't have to carry the
burden of perfectionism; instead, we can relax and simply work to
the best of our ability instead of driving ourselves endlessly --
and we allow life to "make up the difference." Perfectionists, in
their arrogance, try to claim an attribute which is not bestowed
on human beings; perfection is a quality of a deity, not of a
- The image of an abstract ideal of perfection (as opposed to
the very real task which is in front of us).
- Our anxieties regarding possible imperfections. The
emotional turbulence draws our attention away from the task.
for eliminating perfectionism.
- We use archetypal field-work:
We enhance our awareness of intuition. Intuition discerns and
honors all dynamic factors -- our needs, the needs of the other
people, and the needs of the material objects. Our intuition can
help us to clarify our goal, and then direct us to accomplish it,
and then tell us when our effort is adequate such that we can
stop. When we look back on a task which was intuition-driven, we
sense a type of "perfection"; the various factors came together as
perfectly as the available resources would allow.
We determine the amount of "perfection" which is required in
each task. For example, we need to come closer to perfection in a
business report than in a casual game of tennis. Perfectionism is
a neurotic habit which imposes the same demands upon every task.
We develop self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is the
acknowledgment of who we are; perfectionism is the demand that we
be something which we cannot be. When we give up perfectionism,
and we see ourselves as we really are, we discover a type of
"perfection" in our overall life, including the foibles.
We can deliberately make an imperfect creation. This is fun;
it releases tension; and it allows us to express the shadow (which
contains perfection's opposites: chaos, carelessness,
irresponsibility, etc.). For example, we can intentionally paint a
sloppy picture, or sing off-key, or write a letter which is full
of incorrect grammar, or do another harmless act as badly as
possible. While doing it, feel free to laugh, and enjoy your
freedom from the useless tyranny of perfectionism.
- Self-talk. For example: "I devote the proper amount of
attention to each of my responsibilities." "My work is good
enough to meet the needs of the job." "I am glad that spirit is
perfect, so that I can be human."
- Directed imagination. For example, we can visualize
ourselves being congratulated for a task which accomplished its
aim without being perfect.
- Energy toning. We can enhance the energy tones of
contentment, peacefulness, joy, pleasure, and other energy
tones which counteract the mental and physical stress of
- The as-if principle. For example, we act as if we are
satisfied with tasks which are well-done, even if they are not