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  • Writer's pictureLalita Dileep

Pursuit of Perfection – a track to happiness or unhealthy obsession

Examining the seductive allure of this trait
Pix Credit: Danyu Wang

Causes of Perfection

Perfection is sought out as an aspiration, a goal to worship. But when we embark on that journey be it for ourselves, our bodies, our surroundings, our jobs or our loved ones, we need to pause and question, is this an attainable objective? Is this a hurdle or a boon? As the author and researcher Brené Brown writes: ‘Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty- ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.’ So let us reflect on this seductive allure that captivates us down the path towards perfection.

At the deepest level, perfection is setting the highest, even unreasonable expectation for oneself. It involves raising the bar, leaving no room for failure, does not celebrate success, exerts relentless pressures and is unforgiving to the point we are unable to say no. So why do so many of us pride in our ability to pursue perfection? Because it is still the holy grail of standards many of us measure personal success by, a yardstick for personal and professional growth.

The dangers of Perfectionism

In theory, aiming for perfection seems like a good idea. Greater academic, personal and professional success can follow and we can give ourselves the proverbial pat on the back for having pushed ourselves beyond our comfort zone. If it stays within the bounds of being healthy it can be self-motivating but if we nudge our limits constantly, are never satisfied, it can quickly become unhealthy and we will be on the fast track to enduring, debilitating unhappiness.

In this quest for individual development, there are many things to consider. Foremost, one should realize that getting things done, instead of honing it to a state of perfection is being practical as well as realistic. Being open to feedback, facing failure, celebrating the effort and success on the way are equally important. Each of these are building blocks to our personal development. Enjoying the process is another significant step to emotional maturity. Otherwise, trying to be perfect will hold us back. It will constantly seem we are an unbalanced check book; and we will never be able to tally up our Life.

Learning from Nature

With many billion years of experience to aid us, Nature can teach us many valuable lessons. By its very existence it can contradict our belief that perfection is a worthy goal. The study of nature in all its glory teaches us that even in its imperfections, its contradictions, its uniqueness and constants changes there is beauty, relevance and road map for the future that will long outlive mankind.

Nature with its adaptability teaches us that striving for perfection in a dynamic, fluid world is a pointless endeavor. If we must grow, indeed thrive then we must set up a more forgiving and less exhausting role models for ourselves. Nature illustrates that it lives in the moment, evolves and adapts, valuable life lessons for us. To be natural and perfect, is an oxymoron for Nature. Yet there beauty and glory all around us in our surroundings. We can strive to great things and be the best version of ourselves without trying to be perfect. Join me in this endeavor as everyday we take one step closer to being a better rendition of ourselves.

We are stronger together


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