An Irony to Remember: Perfection Leads to Discontent

  1. Perfection: the state of being complete and correct in every way.
  2. Discontent: a feeling of wanting better treatment or an improved situation.

The one and two sound pretty different, right? The irony strikes here. Let us explore.

Expecting and comparing your work with an idealised standard that doesn’t exist leads to a feeling of discontent. Perfection inhibits your ability to progress and manage life and work. It slows down your process when you are facing challenges. It can make you feel anxious, guilty and inferior. Spending too much time on tasks and avoiding tasks because you can’t do them perfectly, causes underachievement and affects work-life balance. Perfection leads to paralysis. How has fear of not doing something perfectly kept you stuck?

Are you always trying to reach a standard that you imagine others expect? From whom did you get this idea of perfection – parents, teachers, spouse, bosses or social beliefs? Are these ideas helpful or detrimental to your work performance? Is this standard essential to achieving the outcome you desire?

Are you never happy with your standard of work? The habit of criticizing yourself never creates optimum performance; it inhibits self esteem and reduces results.

Do you make your standard of work a reflection of your worth as a person?

Your self- worth is not related to work unless you believe it is. Healthy self worth comes from within and is not dependent on external achievements. Expecting perfection of others at work makes them feel ashamed and creates a discord that affects work performance all around.

If perfectionism works for you on all levels without detriment – then keep it. I believe, if it’s not broke don’t fix it. If it’s affecting your work or relationships here are some simple strategies to moderate perfectionism:

Change your idea of perfection to be: having everything essential and required for the given situation. Find an appropriate, realistic standard that achieves the outcome. What tasks could you do to a moderate standard that will still achieve your goals?

Aiming for progress not perfection is more rewarding and reduces stress.

Measuring your standards today with the past will show improvement and cultivate confidence. This improves relationships and work efficiency. You can avoid feeling inferior by associating your self-worth with your honest intention to do your best in the circumstances. Having the attitude that most people are doing the best they can with what they have reduces resentment and conflict. When you stop looking at imperfections you might discover that you and others are doing much better than you thought. By focusing on the things that are going well, you might notice more of the qualities, attributes and best moments of the day.

Ask yourself – how will the quality of this task affect my life in the big scheme of things?

See the gift or lesson in the imperfection – how many a time has a mistake turned out to better a situation?

You think that once you reach perfection, all will be okay; you will be okay. Today’s perfection is never good enough tomorrow because you keep raising the bar. You can’t really lose when you make mistakes unless you stop learning and trying. Imperfections are a part of life.

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