In Pursuit of Perfectionism

perfectionismWho ever said perfection is real????

When I taught classes in corporate communication, I often saw professionals with unrealistic goals that affected their ability to relax, be themselves, and communicate with others.  I would tell my classes that perfection is a mind game you will never, ever win because perfection does not exist! Whoever told us to strive for perfection laid the groundwork for unhappiness and constant disappointment.

I found an article by Lisa Ryan in the Huffington Post, which I thought said it much better than I. Here are some excerpts.

Gordon L. Flett, a professor of psychology at York University in Canada, defines the difference between ambition and perfectionism this way: If someone is merely ambitious, they will often feel a sense of relief or accomplishment after achieving a specific goal. Yet, with perfectionism, a sense of dissatisfaction lingers even after a success and can lead to depression.

Being perfect isn’t just something perfectionists would like to be; instead, they feel that being perfect is an imperative, something they must be. Rather than focusing on the positives of any achievement, perfectionists tend to ruminate about their own limitations or any perceived failure.

Both women and men can suffer from perfectionism, particularly when it comes to work, according to Carol Landau, a clinical professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University. However, women tend to ruminate more, and also feel pressured to live up to perfectionist standards about the different roles they have to fill. “We have to be a perfect mother, a perfect spouse or partner, perfect at work, have the perfect house, and so on and so forth,” Landau said.

And I am the No. 1 culprit in this department. When I first started my communication classes in the 1990s, I had a great year and surprised myself by earning far more than I had expected. But instead of giving myself the praise I deserved, I immediately thought I needed to double that number for the second year.

I’m still trying to understand and feel accomplishment and when I do, I’m much more satisfied with my work.