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The Price of Perfectionism

October 22, 2022

I have come to realize that perfectionism comes at a cost. Since I now understand perfectionism to be a fear-based response to “outdo” the negative thinking about oneself, when we err, which is to be human (yes, we are human beings), we simply reinforce that destructive programming.

To strive to be “perfect” is an illusion that causes suffering, because making mistakes is not contingent on intelligence or self-worth. We make mistakes when we are tired, sick, overwhelmed, multitasking, or just plain distracted. I am reminded of the scene from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, when Shirley Manson’s character dotes on how wonderful machines are, because they don’t possess the human “flaw” of fatigue.

I can see now how I have historically been too hard on myself for making mistakes, and that it has been arduous for me to try to not make mistakes, to the point that I wouldn’t even attempt to succeed; I was terrified of other people “seeing” what I believed about myself that I desperately tried to conceal. I felt badly about myself, and so I tried to act super-human. I thought that if I could be spotless, people would like me, or at least not think the same way about me as I did about myself.

After changing my career into healthcare, I was given new opportunities that have helped me understand through experience that it’s okay to make mistakes: making mistakes is not a reflection of who we are as people, even if they are sometimes embarrassing. Even the highest paid people I know make mistakes regularly. Now I can see that I tried to be flawless, because I was afraid I would be considered stupid or that it would validate my lower paying day job. Today I can negate that harmful thinking by reminding myself that it’s okay to be imperfect, and I don’t need to pay for my mistakes through self-deprecation, or believe that aspiring for more responsibilities in my life to be too great to attain.

Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

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