We like to say we’re just striving for the best, that we just abide by high standards of excellence. We like to tell ourselves that we’ll just spend a few more minutes working to make our current endeavor just perfect… but then those minutes turn into hours. We like to think that every single thing we do in our lives is the most important thing we’ve ever done–and we won’t settle for anything less than perfection.
By we, I mean the world of perfectionists.
I’d be the first to admit that I’m a perfectionist. And at times I like to think this drive to settle for only the best has indeed benefited me greatly in aspects of my life. Yet at the same time, I have begun to come to the conclusion that seeking perfectionism constantly is actually not always a positive thing.
More importantly, I have learned that perfectionism doesn’t exist.
If perfection doesn’t exist, then it doesn’t quite seem worth it to me to spend ten times as long on something to get it just a hair closer to being perfect. Of course, this does have exceptions. Some things in life are so radically important that striving to put forth the best is worth the time. But when it impacts every single action in your life–every homework assignment, every move you make–it’s not worth it.
Perfectionism is a waste of time for areas in our life that won’t matter when a few days past. It causes unnecessary stress and often times sleep deprivation. It causes some people to never finish tasks in fear of them being perfect, and perfectionism causes some people to procrastinate. The insanity it can lead to seems like a high price to pay for perfectionism.
Fortunately, it’s possible to balance perfectionism with, well, imperfection. Here are a few ways:
1. Learn how to fail. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase that “failure is a part of life,” but how many times do we embrace it? Failure is one of life’s biggest blessings, giving us chances to make even more perfect versions of ourselves in the future. Don’t be afraid of failure.
2. Make deadlines. If you have a project for school or an essay for colleges, give yourself a time limit. Finish by the deadline you set for yourself and do not allow yourself to work past that deadline, constantly trying to improve it little by little. Finish the task and move on.
3. Think about what you can and can’t control in your life. I was just a part of the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band, and one of the army sergeants talked about how musicians are perfectionists; it’s a part of our lifestyle. But by realizing what we can’t control in life, we can let go of it much easier rather than trying to make perfect events that aren’t within our reach.
4. Compliment yourself for a job well done rather than constantly critiquing your work. This was another piece of advice I took from the All-American Band. While critiquing work is important, it’s just as important to compliment yourself. Don’t constantly seek out the worst in your work; it will just drive your perfectionism further and further. Seek the positives and compliment yourself as well.
5. Embrace creativity because perfectionism doesn’t exist. The idea of perfectionism is based purely on a personal standpoint. I learned that perfection in music is impossible because creativity and musicality is necessary–otherwise it isn’t really music, it’s just notes and rhythms being played. So don’t strive for perfectionism; rather, strive to let your inner creative side out.
Perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse, but often times the plague of perfectionism can lead to greater negative effects than positive ones. Keep your standards high, but there’s a difference from having standards of perfection and standards of excellence.