“The Perfect Article”
When hearing the term “Perfectionist”, at first thought you may think, “Now that is a great virtue to have!” But if you were to look that word up in just about any dictionary, you will find words linked to it such as obsessive, flawless, or faultless. Why is that? For one, the perfectionist behavior includes an excessive effort to produce a flawless and faultless performance. What they believe they are doing is the “Superior Standard” and nothing could make it better. Secondly, pursuing perfectionism is an obsession. Having an obsession over anything, determines where a person’s focus and energy lies. So, in hindsight, if you are obsessed, then you are addicted. You may argue with me that striving to be perfect isn’t an addiction, but I say whether you are obsessed with alcohol, drugs, food, weight, or emotional peace, anytime you choose something over life then you are addicted to it.
Being a perfectionist is hard work. Everything they do from their hobbies, to problem solving, to their work, to their sex life and relationships, to their appearance and physical condition, along with their spiritual life and even motives are all driven by their perfectionist thinking. I have even heard one person say that they were perfect at making sure other people did something perfect! People that are perfectionist have the need to operate at full speed, which usually means that they need to do more than one thing at a time. When this happens, everything becomes an urgency which in return cause unrealistic goal setting.
Think about it, everyone has some perfectionist thinking in themselves because nobody wants anything “average”. Who wants an average relationship? We want the perfect marriage with a perfect partner. We want to be perfect parents who have the perfect kids. We dream of a perfect family, but a real perfectionist living the quest for perfection will affect the relationship with their partner in a negative way. Let’s say that a perfectionist meets someone new. At the beginning, things in that relationship couldn’t be better, but as the relationship moves forward and they get to know each other or even after they get married, that fantasy dissipates. The other person is seen realistically in all of their faults and failures, and they now no longer become the prince or princess that the perfectionist originally thought about them. So now they turn into a project to perfect versus loving them in all of their limitations and imperfections.
Perfectionist often place a lot of value on the mind. The mind become superior and someone having an extreme value on the mind like this will only allow a person to show and express their feelings to a very small degree. This is because every emotion that they feel needs to be examined and controlled. When this happens it no longer becomes mind and body, but it becomes mind versus body. In short, a person is only a spectator of life when the mind is supreme.
Just like there are consequences to the addiction of alcohol and drugs, there are consequences to the lifestyle of a perfectionist. For one, like drugs and alcohol, perfectionist always seems to produce guilt, which will always lead to anxiety, self-depreciation and discouragement. Loneliness and depression will also plague the perfectionist as well. All of this is based on a lie and fear of rejection over being judged as being imperfect. Yet they continue to believe this lie even though it goes against the evidence that indicates the entire opposite.
If people are going to free themselves from perfectionism, then they need to dig out those roots and they especially need to remove their behaviors. The key is recovery from perfectionism. Recovery is built upon the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and for the perfectionist the first three steps are crucial and really important. If you happen to look at Step 1 it asks the person to admit they are powerless over alcohol and their character defects, which in this case would be perfectionist thinking, and that their life is completely unmanageable. Admitting you are powerless isn’t easy, but if a person is to begin to redefine themselves in the area of emotions and mind, they have to begin with humility. It is the bedrock of recovery and living a life of happiness and purpose. Step 2 goes into to explain that a person cannot handle their addiction by themselves but must look to God for help. It says that only a power greater than themselves can restore sanity back. Only when a person can stop attempting to be God and place their faith in him can they continue in their recovery. You have to believe that your mind is not superior, but God is superior. Step 3 opens up a door that seemed to be closed. People in this step are required to surrender their will and control over to God. They have to have the willingness to believe that they have limitations and are not perfect and must even act as if that is even true. This step requires a person to make a decision. It is not just the beginning of change but is a huge step in the process of change. A quote from the Alcoholics Anonymous big book states, “our whole trouble has been the misuse of willpower. We had tried to bombard our problems with it instead of attempting to bring it into agreement with God’s intentions for us.” If you are a perfectionist, then this applies to you as well.
Perfectionist people have been characterized as people who are living rich in achievement but are living poor in joy. If you are a perfectionist, you don’t have to live that way. The challenge for you is to see that happiness is a way of life, acceptance is a way of life. They are not goals to achieve, but are rather a new lifestyle to live.