By Nanditha Lakshmanan
Maybe it’s just me, or maybe the desire is innate in all of us: the desire to be the most intelligent, most attractive, most talented, most creative, and most liked. Most perfect. I’m sure everyone’s heard “No one’s perfect” and “Everyone makes mistakes!” and similar sentiments. But everyone knows one person who seems to prove these sentiments wrong at every turn? They can do no wrong. They are everything you think a human should aspire to be. They are perfect, and you are woefully, woefully inadequate. And so, you begin your long journey to beat down on every single one of your flaws until they do not exist anymore.
Perfectionism is often viewed as a beneficial trait. Considering that we, as a society, laud things for being “perfect” and “flawless,” why would we not admire those who hold themselves to that ideal? Perfectionism is seen as a tool, beneficial to those with lofty goals. We tend to view perfectionists as being the hardest workers, the brightest people, the crème de la crème of humanity. Psychologists, on the other hand, tend to view perfectionism as a handicap. Perfectionists are plagued with a chronic sense of failure, indecisiveness (the reason why many perfectionists procrastinate perpetually), and never-ending shame.
Perfectionists tend to be very inwardly judgmental. They feel that any affection or praise they receive from the people around them is solely due to their successes. They cannot comprehend people seeing them in a positive light if they do not perform well. Perfectionists’ relationships with the people around them can become strained because they do not believe in and cannot understand unconditional love. Their relationships may also become strained because they hold the people in their lives to the same standard that they hold themselves to, which causes them to be highly critical of others.
Psychopathology has been linked to perfectionism. Perfectionism tends to couple with anxiety, depression, chronic stress and more. The correlation makes sense. If you are never satisfied with yourself, how will you not suffer mentally? Perfectionists also tend to suffer from eating disorders. This correlation also makes sense. When you are incapable of being satisfied with your body, of course you will push it to impossible limits to fit some unreachable ideal.
There is nothing wrong with aspiring to be better. How could we live without hopes and goals for ourselves? But it is important to understand that while there is nothing wrong with aspiring to be the best you can be, it is not possible to succeed at everything. Flaws make us human. Mistakes are natural, and should be used as tools to learn from, not marks of shame. I won’t tell you that you’re perfect the way you are, but I will tell you that you are enough.