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The Pursuit of Perfection

by Dr. Vesna Grubacevic

  • Are you dissatisfied regardless of how much you achieve?
  • Is your work or that of others never good enough?
  • Do your overly high standards let you down and sabotage your success?
  • Would you like to put less pressure on yourself to succeed and enjoy life more?

Perfectionism versus Excellence

It is important to differentiate between perfectionism and excellence.  Perfectionism relates to setting extremely high standards and having unrealistic expectations of yourself and of others, and being displeased with anything else.  While it is good to have high standards, it becomes a problem when the standards are so high that it becomes almost impossible or unrealistic to achieve them.  It is a very good way to set ourselves up for failure.  Despite great successes and achievements, perfectionists will be dissatisfied and rather than celebrating their successes, will feel that they haven’t done enough.

In contrast, excellence relates to being extremely good and competent at whatever we set out to learn or do.  It is about being the best you can be, continually improving and learning to reach higher levels of performance, and growing as a person.  Excellent people celebrate their successes and acknowledge themselves before setting their next achievable goal.  This acknowledgement, in turn, breeds more success.

Coping Mechanisms

Most perfectionist traits are developed in the first 21 years of a person’s life.  Our interpretation of our environment in the first 21 years of our life (parents, siblings, relatives, school, friends, role models, partners, TV, internet, etc) defines our personality later in life.  Often perfectionist tendencies develop during that time as a coping mechanism for dealing with life’s challenges.

For example, someone who has had failures or lots of criticism in the past (eg. in school, business, relationships, etc), may develop perfectionist tendencies in order to avoid failure again.  However, this need to have everything perfect can lead to putting too much pressure on yourself to perform, and can result in failure anyway.

Negative Consequences

As we grow up, those old coping mechanisms may no longer serve us and can adversely affect our personal and professional relationships and success.  Some of these negative consequences include:

  • Procrastination:  putting off doing things because they are not perfect
  • Indecision:  difficulty making a decision for fear it will not be perfect
  • Lost opportunities:  missing out on opportunities due to the above
  • Beating up on self:  nothing is ever good enough and they are never satisfied with their or others’ appearance, successes and achievements
  • Unrealistic expectations:  expecting other people to be perfect so they may have conflict in personal and business relationships when other people make mistakes
  • Sabotaging relationships:  no partner is ever good enough so being overly critical of their partner even if their partner does a great job
  • Lack of trust in others:  no one is perfect and never does the job right, therefore they can’t be trusted
  • Too much pressure to perform:  putting too much pressure on self to do even more, resulting in excess stress and potential health problems
  • Lack of happiness in self and in life:  nothing is ever good enough to create happiness within and around them.

Transforming Perfectionism into Excellence

We all have the potential to excel by accessing more of our infinite unconscious resources.  It is only our self doubts, fears and limiting beliefs (including those around perfectionism) that prevent us from fully accessing those infinite resources and that limit us from excelling.  Once those limitations are addressed, we can transform perfectionism into excellence, and our results and success will improve significantly.  Importantly, we will then also find it easier to acknowledge and celebrate our successes, which will empower us to continue to excel and to grow both personally and professionally.

Read about how one of our clients stopped putting so much pressure on himself. 

Stop Pressuring Yourself – achieve excellence while enjoying the journey of achievement and success! 

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