The Hysteria Of Perfection has been edited by Pratichi Sadavrati.
Do you feel uneasy when certain things are not where they are supposed to be? Does mess in any form make you uncomfortable? Do you not have this strong need to manage everything around you, make it fall in the right place? In one way or another, every one of us is a perfectionist. These little things make us anxious. We keep getting frustrated over little things. It consumes us. No, this is not OCD. And this is not harmful.
The intense need for perfection differs from one person to another, but everyone is equally stressed. Analysts are all about fixing the system, trying to bring it closer to perfection. Diplomats try to shape the world around them into a more utopian one, where everybody is content and living in harmony. Sentinels find perfection in sticking to rules, standards and traditions. The more they stick to the fixed order, the more they feel like they are performing their duty. And nothing else pleases them more. An explorer’s pride comes from the degree to which they can master a craft or develop a talent. And every one of us is a complicated puzzle of all these personalities, demanding a particular preset pattern in our surroundings. But we fail to realise that perfection is a moving target.
There’s no harm in doing our best whenever we face a task. However, there is a harmful side to seeking perfection. It can turn every single habit into an obsession. And this obsession controls our attitude towards the tiniest things.
We become hard on ourselves. We do not feel comfortable unless all our “ducks are in a row”.
When things get out of order or when obstacles occur, we spend endless amounts of energy trying to set things right. Eventually, this leads us into setting unrealistic, unattainable goals. And because we tend to follow their set standards strictly, we always find themselves leading our lives in absolute distress.
It challenges your ego, you feel frustrated. And if you allow your ego too much rope, it starts to choke. You feel flawed, useless and dumb. Trying to reach “perfect” becomes a full-time job, gaining too much importance for an individual. This grabs our focus and pulls it away from other important things, leading to an unbalanced and sometimes, an unstable life.
Perfectionism leads to havoc in relationships as well. When we seek perfection, we not only burden ourselves with it, but we often project our perfectionism on others. We don’t like it when others don’t adhere to our rigid standards. There are a lot of expectations which make us intolerant of any mistakes our loved ones make or of any human foibles they might display. We stop accepting them for who they are. Of course, what we imagine is a fabrication that nobody can live up to and that puts a powerful strain on any relationship.
On the way to self-realization, it gets tempting to just stick to what you know, keep feeling good about yourself, and continue to dominate in your field or speciality. When you do this, you coddle your ego, avoid feeling “less than”, and skirt around the activities that dare and daunt you. But the problem with this approach is that it stunts your growth. You keep growing in a linear fashion, rather than broadening your skills and surpassing your own expectations of who you are. You never become more than what you hold the potential for.
So, how to overcome the shortcomings of perfection, how to solve the paradox? The key is to not stress too much over maintaining an order. We undermine things, not realising that they might not be perfect, but they are good. They are good enough. So evade your inner critic, and stick to targets not too difficult for you to achieve.
It isn’t easy to live with a perfectionist psychology. It is not child’s play to work on the things you suck at. But the choice you make between managing your challenges and taking them on is the difference between becoming better and becoming a supernova. It’s up to you.
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