As a recovering perfectionist, I often find myself exploring what lies beneath this habit. Here are some thoughts.
What’s beneath the striving for perfection?
Many people say it’s fear.
Yes to all of these.
And also, all of these fears exist on a plane separate from the plane of perfection. Even if you could be perfect, you would still have these fears.
Perfection is an illusion. Deep down, even the most ardent perfectionist knows that there is no such thing as perfect. It’s a myth And it’s tied to three other illusions.
The 3 Illusions of Perfectionism
(1) The Illusion of Rationality
If I’m perfect then people have no reason to judge or criticize me.
You know criticism doesn’t work like that. People will judge and criticize without a reason. Because judgment and criticism aren’t logical. They are emotional.
Our judgements of others reflect our judgments of ourselves.
What we criticize in others are the flaws we see in ourselves.
The things we don’t like in others reflects the parts of ourselves that we don’t like.
Even in a world where perfect was possible, and even if you achieved that standard of perfection, people would still judge you. They would still find something to criticize. Because they are not judging or criticizing you. They are judging themselves.
(2) The Illusion of Finality
If I’m perfect, then I can prove I’m not a fraud.
The strive for perfection buys into the belief that things are final. One-and-done. If you prove to be perfect, it means you’re good enough. You’re not an imposter.
Except what about next time?
This is the trap in the illusion of finality. You strive to present perfection not thinking about what will happen next time. And then you feel stuck. Because now, if you reveal yourself to be imperfect, you risk exposure. You risk losing your status.
You become imprisoned by the perception of perfection. Always trying to prove something to someone else. Afraid to step out as you are because your want to uphold your image.
If you’re striving to live up to your own Instagram feed, you’re caught in this trap.
(3) The Illusion of Control
If I’m perfect, I can control the outcome.
Beneath everything else, perfectionism is about the illusion of control.
We strive to be perfect because we believe that if we do “it” (whatever “it” is) “right” (whatever “right” means in that context), then we can control the outcome.
If I’m the perfect parent, my kids will be successful.
If I host the perfect dinner party, then everyone will have a great time.
If I write the perfect blog post, then my article will go viral.
The strive to perfection is based on the illusion that you can control what others think and feel, and how they respond.
Except it doesn’t work like that, because you cannot control other people and you cannot control the outcome of an event.
You can control only what you believe, what you do, and how you respond to circumstances. That’s it.
And the more we can realize that we are not in control — that we never were in control in the first place — the easier it is to let go of the illusion of control in the places where we have no control.
Thoughts? Reactions? Response? Let me know what you think. Agree or disagree. Take a stand for something. Share in the comments.