Perfectionism is stupid

Do you ever find yourself saying, if only X would happen, then things would be perfect?

A lot of people do, and it’s probably hurting more than its helping. Perfectionism and platonic idealism can cause unnecessary anxiety that is unproductive.

What is perfect?

Let’s look at Michael Phelps. He’s a fantastic swimmer. Would one consider his body mechanics perfect or close to perfect, given his olympic success?

By that same measure, but applied to weightlifting, would his body mechanics be considered far from perfect, because his long levers make him an inefficient olympic weightlifter?

More importantly though, is there an empirically falsifiable way to distinguish perfection?
I can’t think of one. Yet we all have an idea of “perfection.” This seems to indicate it’s a “socially constructed idea.” So it’s just an idea, not an empirical fact or observation.

Is it helpful?

Sometimes, but I think most of the time, it’s actually harmful. It leads us to spend too much energy over-indexing, rather than just getting it done so we can move on to more impactful things. We spend needless amounts of time organizing papers to some idealized notion of organization, when actually a stack of papers is incredibly efficient. It’s a least recently used cache, which is actually what your computer uses to store information.

Most importantly though, it can cause anxiety. Are we perfect? What if we do x, y, z?

In these moments, it’s important to take a step back, and remember that it’s just an idea.

Whenever you must choose between the perfect and the actual, choose the actual, because perfect does not exist.