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Chasing Perfection

Perfectionism Quotation Leonard Cohen

Achieving perfection is nearly impossible.

The other day I got a hair-brain idea from Pinterest to make scented candles poured in reclaimed mason jars, embellished with rustic details. All the comments made the process seem monkey easy.

Let’s just say I’m satisfied when the day ends and I haven’t totally burned the house down.  Note to friends on my holiday candle list: Expect a nice box of packaged chocolates. Perfect!

Being called a perfectionist (which I am kind of when it comes to bathroom cleaning, not candle making) isn’t about things being perfect in your life. It’s the perception that you’ve got it all together and therefore everything in your life must be perfect, which is rarely true.

A social perfectionist yields to external pressure to get everything just right. We can thank Martha Stewart, Pinterest, and every HGTV and Food Channel show host for making us believe a kitchen renovation or the perfect meal can be completed in thirty minutes, with commercial breaks.

Perfectionists cite past mistakes, criticism and expectations from parents, teachers and supervisors for driving their need to perform better than the next guy or gal. In reality nobody’s perfect.

Self perfection is the breed of perfectionists who set their own bar high. They’re motivated to get it right and not make mistakes. They avoid failure by claiming to give 110% and if that doesn’t get the job done they’ll work until the skin on their fingers chafes and bleeds. It’s a never ending treadmill which if unchecked, leads to burnout, or worse. For a perfectionist, at stake is the dissolution of self-esteem.

Supporters of perfectionists see you as someone to emulate which further keeps you motivated to fulfill their perceptions of you. To a perfectionist “average” is a failure.

This perpetuates a cycle of doing for self satisfaction. Nothing is ever good enough, no matter what physical evidence, achievements and accolades a perfectionist earns, they can always do more, be more. Just ask them.

For the rest of us mere mortals, we are unfairly judged by perfectionists. We can’t (please tell them we don’t want to) compete in their arena. For that we are judged as less than.

If perfectionism is unobtainable, is chasing it a bad thing? Absolutely not. I hope my doctors and tax accountants are perfectionists!

But perfectionism is not a badge of honor if it drives you to the point your physical and mental health suffers. That goes double for the non-perfectionists on your candle list.


Original graphic: Stephanie DelTorchio
Image: Tony Wallstrom
Lyrics: Leonard Cohen

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