Perfectionism is a way of thinking that involves the belief that every piece of work you do needs to be perfect. While this approach may seem like it leads to better work, it actually tends to lead to less overall accomplishments. This is because perfectionism comes with an extreme amount of pressure. The pressure is often so great that people feel overwhelmed and put off by the task.
Why do we feel the need to be perfect?
Perfectionism is a prevalent issue in society today. Many of us feel that unless we complete perfect work, we have no chance of success. Unfortunately, rates of perfectionism are on the rise. Previous generations did not feel as much pressure to complete perfect work. The culprit of this may lie in the widespread use of the internet and social media.
It seems like almost everyone is spending time on the internet nowadays. Social media is also a viral craze. During our time on the internet, we spend a lot of time looking at successful people. Why? Because successful people have the most popular posts with the most likes.
What we often see in the posts made by successful people or in successful posts, in general, is excellent work. If it’s a painting, it is probably a really good one. Did a popular photographer snap a photo of a sunset? It’s most likely a great picture, right? If it is an athlete performing some skill, he or she is probably doing it exceptionally well.
Again, most of what we see on social media and the internet is the great works and accomplishments of other people. Our natural human reaction to seeing success is thinking about how we can achieve that success for ourselves.
Most of us get into trouble when it comes to comparing ourselves to others in this way. We tend to get caught up on what we are lacking and how we have not accomplished what we see other people achieve. This leads us to believe that the only way we could ever accomplish something like we see on social media is by doing perfect work.
For some, this seems like a doable task. “Perfect work is nothing,” one person may think. “All I have to do is put in all my time and effort and work really hard, and I’ll get it on my first or second try. I can do it, right?”
The problem with this way of thinking is that it is not sustainable. By this, it means it is tough to actually devote all of your time and effort to something without getting burnt out.
How do you stop being a perfectionist?
Thankfully, you can change your perfectionist mindset. The first step is to take an outsider perspective on the matter.
Here are some.
Hard work always does the trick
Say that you see a social media post regarding some great work of art, it’s easy to assume that someone made the art piece with little effort, or that this was their first try. This is very unlikely to be true. What is more probable is that the artist worked very hard on what they did. It takes only a second for you to look at a post, but it could have taken hundreds of hours to create what was in that post.
Most, if not all, successful people have worked really hard. They have likely built on a given skill over time through trial and error.
A liberating thought I have to offer you is that hard work will always gain you something. A lot of times, it feels like our hard work comes up short. Instead of thinking about the failures you may encounter, try to think about the lessons and skills you have gained along the way. This way, you are more likely to enjoy the process. You’ll be more open to understanding that it takes time to get good at something.
Stop comparing your work to others’ work
As mentioned earlier, being a perfectionist usually stems from comparing our knowledge or skillset with someone else. This is never a good thing to do.
As the famous phrase goes, there is always going to be someone bigger, faster, stronger, or better. It is just the way it is.
This should inspire you more than discourage you. There is no reason to try to “keep up with the competition.” In fact, people who are better than us are not our competition, they are our teachers. Instead of looking at a post on social media and thinking, “I wish I was as good as this guy,” you should think “I wish I knew this guy so he could teach me what he already knows.” In all reality, you could even reach out to the artist. Who knows, they may have the time to share their knowledge with you.
As a final word of advice, being a perfectionist is not exactly bad. But in excess (that it affects your mindset and life negatively), it could demotivate you rather than inspire you to reach for your goals. Accept the fact that there will always be someone better than you. The key is to change your perspective. Rather than discourage you, use it as motivation to continue improving yourself and enriching your life.