Is Perfectionism an Illusion or Reality?

I thought I was best at what I do, in fact I thought I excelled at it and no one could be better than I was. And then one day reality hit me, I was not perfect, I was anything but perfect. It wasn’t that I was bad at what I did but I was not perfect. The feeling left me dejected and low-spirited.

Many times we have heard people say, “Perfectionism is a disease”. Is this true, are we all trying hard to be infected by this disease?

We live in a society that is competitive and buries those who do not perform well. If you grew up in a family that is over focused on achievements and there is no room for mistakes, you probably think “perfect” equals to being “valued”. We are prized for getting perfect grades, perfect job, perfect partner and we start believing that if we are nothing but perfect we will probably not be valued. In order to prevent ourselves from being smeared with the tag of ‘imperfection’, we adapt ourselves to constantly strive to be ‘good’ and ‘perfect’.

When perfectionism takes hold of everything we do, anything less than perfect is experienced as ‘bad’ and ‘unworthy’.

Is there truly something called as being ‘perfect’ or we all are living under an illusion of perfection?

We all want to be perfect as we think that this is the only way to keep our flaws hidden deep within us. It is an attempt to keep shame and rejection at a distance and to seek acceptance through excessive high performance and striving to be flawless.

In reality what we perceive as flaw is indeed human.

If you seek for perfection, you will demand perfectionism in a relationship. You will reject other, and they will reject you, coz of unrealistically high expectations. Be it a relationship, family or office, we all are surrounded by people who value perfection and we end up walking everyday with a heavy bag of perfection on our shoulders which is invisible to the world but visible only within ourselves. This bag eventually becomes so heavy that we cannot carry it and we suffer the fate of unworthiness, loneliness and dejection.

Are You Living Under a Spell of Perfectionism?

Ask yourself whether you are perfect and probably all of us will answer yes. But wanting to achieve perfectionism is itself a flaw in you. We probably are not aware of whether we are perfectionist or not, so check for these signs to know if you are:

  • Frequently criticizing and finding fault in others
  • Unable to forgive others for their mistake
  • Not being able to accept people the way they are and constantly trying to change them the way you want
  • Becoming overly defensive when people give you negative feedback
  • Difficulty in adapting changed circumstances
  • Thinking all situations as black and white and judging people as always ‘good’ or ‘bad’

Coming Out of the Spell!

I was browsing through random articles on Internet and I came across the concept of “Wabi-Rabi” in Zen, or commonly the Japanese culture. Wabi-Rabi revolves around the acceptance of a beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. To elaborate there is a very famous story of Rikuyu.

Early in his life, Sen no Rikyu desired to learn The Way of Tea. Hence he visited the Tea Master of its time, a man named Takeno Joo. As a test to whether accept this man or not, Joo assigned Rikyu to tend the garden. Eagerly Rikyu set to work. He raked the garden until the ground was in perfect order, and arranged everything in idealized symmetry. Everything was in order and manicured into the most aesthetically pleasing way possible. As Sen no Rikyu finished he surveyed his work – then shook the cherry tree, causing a few flowers to fall at random onto the ground and spoil the “perfect” order.

At that moment Takeno Joo knew Sen no Rikyu would be one the greatest example of wabi-sabi way of life.

Perfection is not an end goal, it is a mental state to try and achieve the best. It can never be achieved and you simply need to make the right efforts towards the right goals. Always striving to be perfect will make your life harder to live.

Think positive and spend your time acknowledging ‘what is’ instead of ‘what isn’t’.

Don’t let negativity surround you and learn to take criticism in a positive spirit. Always remember, critics are your best friend, they will tell you things which you don’t want to listen, but if you work on them you will not be perfect but your best.

Don’t stress too much to be flawless always. Give yourself some scope to make mistakes. Ultimately, you will not be perfect but will be relieved and value your personal worth.

When you are at work, try to do your best and complete your task. Do not let the illusions of perfection blind you, it doesn’t exist.


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