My own saying when it comes to perfectionism is as follows:

That’s right – Perfectionism is a concept, not a reality.

It’s something many of us strive for, whether we realise it or not. We want, we need, things to be ‘just so’. Any less will result in anxiety, frustration, feelings of disappointment with the situation and with ourselves.

Reality Bites

Are there positives to perfectionism?Β There are positives to goals and ideals because they make us work harder, give us some direction, maybe even motivate and inspire us. But none of that is really real when they don’t exist the way we imagine them to.

Perfection itself doesn’t exist. It’s a socially sculpted, socially defined concept.

We are always generating notions of perfection, aiming to reach them, berating ourselves when we don’t.

Nothing will ever be ‘exactly perfect’, and even if whatever it is goes to plan or you find yourself thinking something is close to perfect, the feeling is fleeting, hollow; it never feels the way you think it would.

Looking For Perfection

Perfection In The Smaller Things

We aim for these perfect ideals in the smallest of things – the way the bread is toasted ‘just right’, having a day out or our pre-made plans go smoothly just as you hope, how exact you get your duvet cover to fit. Those with OCD and anxiety will likely know the smaller things quite well and deal with the niggles they bring every day. They are endless. I think some of the smaller perfectionist issues likely come from our need for control, too.

Perfection In The Bigger Things

We aim for perfection in the bigger, more serious things too – the size and shape of our bodies, how our faces look, having the perfect relationships and careers.

We’ve been told time and time again what the perfect face looks like, how our bodies should look, what kinds of jobs are the most respectable, how much we should be earning, what we should and shouldn’t be eating, all of the things we should be doing in our lives if we want to be interesting and amazing people.

Perfection In Life’s Milestones

Society has taught us all too often that there are certain milestones to achieve by certain points in your life, such as when to get into a serious relationship, when to settle down, when to get a career, to move out, to get a mortgage and get married and have a child etc.

Perfection… Says Who?

But these are perfectionist, idealistic goals that don’t suit everyone. Not only that, but they’re simply ideas of what others think ‘should’ happen. Who cares? Who made up these rules and standards that we feel obliged to follow and to aim for?

If we don’t follow these rules and aim for these ideals and achieve such perfectionism, what happens? Are we not good enough as we are, are our lives not worth anything if we don’t join the gym and a book club, sip wine with a bunch of giggling friends in the evening, have a 10 year plan sketched out for when we’re hitting the next milestones, own our own swish apartment filled with expensive gadgets and brand label clothing afforded by our high-flying successful careers, while we stand in front of a mirror to think just how perfectly incredible we look? What if we don’t own the best, most expensive gadgets and clothing?

What if our bread isn’t perfectly toasted on both sides? What if we miss a spot when we clean the kitchen and our duvet covers are a mess and our skin has breakouts and our hair doesn’t swish like in the L’Oreal adverts? What if, no matter how much we plan and try to control our days, things never quite go the way we want them to?

Whatever we do when we aim for perfection, it will never be enough.

Whenever we try to meet someone else’s rules and ideals, we will feel as though we fall short.

The more our anxiety notches up over trying to be perfect, the more pressure there is on us, the more stressed we feel. The desire for perfect starts to affect every part of your life and before you know it you’re living just to achieve something you don’t have and are constantly striving for things to be ‘just so’.

You’ll never appreciate yourself, your life, and the big and little things in it, while you’re doing this.

What happens when you don’t reach the ideals?

Nothing too drastic, if you can do away with the self-judgement. The world won’t end, you won’t change as a person, no curse will be cast upon you. The world keeps turning and your heart keeps beating.

Maybe it’s time we loosen the ropes a little, let go of the ideals and the concept of perfection. Dealing with an invisible / chronic illness is difficult enough, don’t add striving for ideals to your struggles.

Working on anxiety to calm the niggles of the smaller perfectionist issues is a hard thing to do, but take it day by day. Remember that you are bigger than those things, and that the world won’t fall apart if things aren’t quite ‘perfect’.

When it comes to the bigger perfectionist issues and the standards society sets, I think it’s time to say ‘enough’. Set your own goals and standards, and be answerable only to yourself. Pave your own path and live your own life because you’re the only one who can.

CazΒ  Β β™₯

29 thoughts on “Notes On Perfection”

      1. You are so right, Caz, and it should be as you said a personal one. If God had wanted us perfect, He would have made us that way. It certainly is within His power :):) The weekend has been wonderful. I’m missing my son a bit but hubby is home so it is balancing out. I pray your weekend is going well too :):)

  1. Great article Caz, I agree that you can only be happy by doing what is right for you rather than feeling pressured by society. It’s even harder to achieve your perfectionist ideals with a chronic illness and it does kind of force you to give them up a bit and move on! Xx

    1. I think getting ill and struggling with the things I do now has actually made it all worse for me, though my appreciation for how perfection and ideals are pointless has increased ten fold. Quite a tricky one! Thanks for the comment and I hope you’re having a relaxing weekend πŸ™‚

  2. A good message, and one I need to remember! I can often get focused on certain tasks, and I get upset if things don’t turn out perfect. It’s only me putting that pressure on myself, so I need to accept it’s OK.

    1. That pressure on yourself, then the frustration and disappointment, is like a never-ending cycle. Definitely worth working on and accepting that it’s okay, you have enough to deal with as it is! Thanks for the comment – hope you’re having a good weekend πŸ™‚ x

  3. This is a very well thought-out post! I tried to walk the line between two sayings two of my professors said to me after my doctoral defense: “Perfection is the enemy of completion” and “In aiming for perfection, we reach excellence.”

    1. Oooh yes, those are quite opposing views! I definitely think a balance between those, although tricky, is better than erring towards one or the other. Great point, thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚
      Take care and I hope you’re having a lovely weekend. x

  4. Some thoughtful insights here.

    The idea of perfection or societies view on what perfection is has certainly stopped me doing those things that could have possibly have changed my life.

    social comparison and caring what others think is a sure fire way to stop you living the life that anyone truly deserves

    1. I’m really sorry you’ve struggled with these ideals and views on perfection too. I think that appreciating how these are just concepts, and that we must make our own rules and ideals and let go of the little niggles too, is so important (though it can be incredibly difficult). Thank you for stopping by and sharing your comment πŸ™‚

  5. Caz, what an amazing post with some incredible insights! Perfect is a term that I think so many of us have struggled with in different contexts (intellectually, career wise and physical appearance for example) and it is great to see people challenging what this means. Perfect is different for so many people – it is crazy to hold it up on a pedestal and not let little mistakes slip through here and there without being really affected by it – but we all do it! Loved this, we all have a lot to learn! xxx

    1. Indeed we do have a lot to learn, and I think applying it is the hardest part. Thanks so much for the lovely comment & I’m really glad you liked the post and could relate! Take care & have a fab week Ella! πŸ™‚

  6. So true, there is no such thing as perfection but so many people seem to be perfect. I found that the bar was really raised when I became a Mother, there has never been so much expectation to achieve perfection, yet it has never been so impossible.

    1. I’m not a mother myself, but I can appreciate how that transition comes with a lot of expectations and ‘ideals’, pressures to fit a certain image of motherly perfection that no woman can live up to because it’s just not ‘real’. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment Suzanne πŸ™‚ xx

  7. Love this post, it’s so thoughtful. Some people put so much pressure on themselves to achieve what society considers perfection, this used to hold me back a lot. I’m all about doing I want to do now.

    1. I’m glad you’re at that point of following your own path – it’s can be very hard to do and to let go of the pressures and ideals of perfection and expectations, but living your own life and setting your own rules is incredibly important. Thanks for commenting! πŸ™‚

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