We tend to think that if we set high standards for ourselves it’ll make us more ambitious and successful in going for what we want. The reality is quite the contrary. Perfectionism causes us to beat ourselves up regularly making it harder to achieve our goals. This inflexible mindset results in us feeling miserable while chasing our dreams — turning them into nightmares. Perfectionism creates standards that no one can live up to and sets us up for a definite long and rocky road ahead.
A shortcoming of the perfectionistic mindset is its black and white thinking. If we can’t do something perfectly then it’s not worth doing in the first place. Our perfectionistic outlook results in overshooting or undershooting our goals no matter how many casualties we lose along the way. One version of this is when we demand that our unobtainable standards be met and we make ourselves so overwhelmed and immobilized by the process that we do nothing about it at all. On the flip side, perfectionism can also make unrealistic demands of ourselves that force us to vehemently pursue our desires in an extreme and rigid manner as many other aspects of our social, occupational, emotional, and physical wellbeing fall apart in the process.
It’s imperative to be mindful of the gray area in between perfection and failing. If you’re on a diet and you eat an unhealthy breakfast, it doesn’t mean the day is completely shot. Don’t continue to eat poorly and say to yourself that you’ll just start fresh tomorrow. There are other meals like lunch and dinner where you can make healthier choices. For example, if you meet someone thinner than you that doesn’t make you fat. If someone is richer than you that doesn’t make you poor. If you don’t win a singing competition it doesn’t mean you’re a bad singer. It’s helpful to view yourself more flexibly instead of using an all-or-nothing metric. There will always be someone outperforming you, and just because you can do more doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Knowing our limits and being able to settle for something good and attainable rather than absolutistic and unrealistic will not only increase the odds of getting what we want, but also enjoying ourselves in the process.