A popular cop-out I have heard in personal and professional circles is the idea that “perfectionism” is healthy.

“What’s wrong with having high standards?  Isn’t perfectionism a better work ethic than laziness?”

I truly believe that perfectionism is the WORST form of self-abuse. In my history of working with addicts I understand that there is a “feeling” most substance users are trying to achieve. They want to numb out, have more energy, forget everything, be social or feel sexier, to name a few.

For perfectionists there is no high. There is no end result. IT IS A NEVER ENDING CHASE. A goal may be reached (entry into college, perfect grades, completion of a project) but a true perfectionist still won’t feel “worthy” after accomplishing goals. Just like a codependent person needs someone to fix, the perfectionist needs to feed their self-worth.

With this constant chase comes brutal self-punishment. Other dirty little words like “should”, “failure” and “ought to” keep our inner critic busy.

Rule #1: Don’t SHOULD on yourself.

perfectionism

When our personal demands (powered by brutal self-punishment), affect our self-worth, problems arise. Low self-esteem leads to……wait, I don’t have enough time to discuss what that leads to. You get the picture.

In my personal and professional life, I discourage the use of the word “perfect.” It’s unattainable. “Perfect” sets up unrealistic expectations. And we all know what happens when expectations are set too high. DISAPPOINTMENT!

So what are some solutions?

  • Take the word “perfect” out of your vocabulary. Now.  Thank You.
  • Think of what “perfect” used to mean to you. I understand that some projects for work and home need to be up to a certain standard. Are these projects now considered “up to your standards?” Could you say “I’m pleased with my work? I’m proud of how this project came out.” Isn’t that a more “loving” statement than “My work was perfect.”
  • Think of where you use this word? Do you use this with your spouse/partner? If so, please stop. Remember what I wrote earlier. Perfect is unattainable. It’s unfair to place that standard on someone as important as a spouse/partner. What is “perfect?” Someone who doesn’t cheat on you? State that as a boundary. (What are boundaries? I have a post for that too!)
  • Do you use this word with your children?  What type of pressure are you placing on them by asking them to do things perfectly? Is it more realistic to encourage them to “do their best?”  Most adults suffer with perfectionism due to demands placed on them as children. Click To Tweet

In summary, less pressure can be placed on us and people around us if we set reasonable expectations for behavior. Choose more loving expectations and prepare to receive more loving results!