Breathe under water
perfectionism (n.) a disposition to feel that anything less than perfect is unacceptable.
We have been raised in a society that expects. To begin with, in primary school, the importance of getting those A’s, being on the teacher’s list, getting the gold star at the end of the month. In high school it was all about being popular, being smart, being a jock. Whichever lane we chose to fit into, there was always the hierarchy of being the best. Soon after that, university and the career ladder: always needing to excel.
To drown or not to drown?
There is a difference between obsessive perfectionism and being realistic when you work hard to do something well. Perhaps the key is knowing what particular aspect(s) need to be improved. Stretch to make yourself better is what can, in the end, make a difference between what you think is mediocre and what you think it out-stands. Being afraid of failing is as good as being afraid of drowning the first time you try to swim: it will only prevent you from doing so. But be careful, moving fast and purposeless will only bring you to the bottom of the pool. If you force perfection, it just doesn’t happen.
The worse I feel about myself the more I need to be perfect
Too many people spend way too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Perfectionism can many times even be an excuse to procrastination. But how could you possibly achieve the best result before getting down to business?
We have reached a point where instead of finding amusement in just doing what we like, we started using it as a scale for our own value. So each time one of these activities falls short of our personal benchmarks, in our mind it is actually ourselves falling short of being perfect. And, although no excuse, it can sometimes prevent us from getting what we want.
Let’s take the example of professional swimmers. They often expect so much of themselves that in the case someone passes them in the course of a race they give up almost on the spot providing themselves with a reason why they didn’t win. Which will most certainly be “I didn’t try my hardest”. If you can relate to that, you should ask yourself “Would I rather do my best and still feel I haven’t been good enough or just quit knowing I could have done well?”. Let’s face it: the disappointment of not having been as good as you thought you were does eventually fade away, while the frustration of having given up lasts much longer.
The joy of just okay
On the other hand, wanting to be perfect is a great quality. Too many people waste their talent because “good enough” is always good enough and they are satisfied with just getting by.
“Perhaps we’ll never know how far the path can go, how much a human being can truly achieve, until we realize that the ultimate reward is not a gold medal but the path itself.” ― George Leonard, The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment.
Set a goal towards what you actually want and evaluate your progress. If at the end of the strike you can say to yourself “That’s the one I trained to have”, then you should be happy with your performance.
Don’t expect yourself to get anything in a blink of an eye, you might need some patience. Believing you can do it is great because that demonstrates you have confidence in yourself, which is extremely important when it comes to your studies or career. However, excessive perfectionist thinking can be the source of problems before, during and after anything you are aiming at.
We are not, indeed, meant to live breathing under water.