Harry wanted the perfect wife, the perfect job, and the perfect home. At age thirty-nine he was still unmarried, unemployed, and living in a tenement. His quest for perfection had made it virtually impossible for Harry to be satisfied with the offerings of the real world.
Perfectionists are unrealistic. Few things and no people are perfect. To expect perfection from yourself or from others only creates an impossible standard and can result in a downward spiral of negative thinking that leads to self-criticism, dissatisfaction, frustration, resentment and a “why bother” attitude.
At a recent social gathering, one of the guests proudly stated: “I’m perfectionist!” He was rather taken aback when we said: “We’re sorry to hear it. You have our sympathy.”
• If you push yourself to perform perfectly, you may find that your efforts are counter-productive.
Forcing yourself to meet unrealistic expectations invites undue stress, anxiety, and burnout. In fact, perfectionism often encourages unhealthy competition and may even promote unethical behavior (cheating exams, taking credit for others’ work or falsely claiming job qualifications.)
• Learn to give yourself permission not to perform at optimum speed every minute of the day.
Instead, strive to be competent, to perform extremely well at times but not perfectly, to realize that there are days when you feel under the weather, you are preoccupied with a personal problem, or you feel that the task at hand just does not seem that important. Freed from the pressure to perform perfectly, you will enjoy the work much more, and the result will be good, often excellent work.
• It’s most important to accept the fact that some things only need to be “good enough.”
It’s also important to realize that if you aim too high, you will miss the mark. Wise people learn to derive enjoyment from a task instead of dwelling on the outcome.If you fail to achieve a perfect (impossible) standard or goal, you are not a failure. The failure is due to the fact that the goal was impossible in the first place.
Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.
Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar. Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America” Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D. For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute. Or visit his page here on friendlysuggestions.com.
Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus & Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus: