The Consequences Of Perfection (And How To Stop Chasing It)

mbg Contributor By Zoë B
mbg Contributor
Zoë B is a career coach, author, and founder of the SimpleLifeStrategies blog.

If you constantly strive for perfection – then you might not like what I’m about to say.

The quest for perfection is one of the fastest routes to unhappiness.

You know why?

Because perfection doesn’t exist.

I like to think of it like a mirage – you think you can see it way out in the distance and so you chase, chase, chase, chase, only to be disappointed because each time you get there, it’s vanished.

Perfection is an illusion that keeps us caught in a never-ending cycle of unhappiness and disappointment.

Through my experience as a coach and strategist, I’ve identified a number of common reasons why we seek perfection plus a few tips for dealing with this unhelpful habit.

Why do we seek perfection?

If you think about why we feel the need to be perfect in the first place, it all goes back to self-worth. If we have a strong desire to be perfect then we may use the idea of perfection as a way to validate ourselves as worthy and valuable human beings.

If we were 100% happy with who we are, why would we feel the need to be perfect in the first place? Or would we be perfectly happy, just the way we are?

What I’ve noticed is that people who constantly seek perfection often worry about what others think of them. They're actually seeking recognition – because if we’re perfect then surely no-one can find fault in us, right?

I have a big issue with listening to the opinion of others, namely because it’s often a waste of time. Especially when we listen to other people’s criticism. Plus, if we’re busy listening to other people the whole time, this means we're often oblivious to the sound of our own inner voice – and this is the voice that truly matters.

If we rely on the opinions of others to steer us through big life decisions, we just might end up living someone else’s life. Instead of getting caught up in the pursuit of perfection, what we really need is to understand who we are – and go and live that life.

Steve Jobs once said:

“Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I love this quote because it reminds us what’s really important – to be true to who we are even if this means letting go of perfection.

The Consequences of Perfection

Did you know that the pursuit of perfection comes with many negative consequences that are actually stopping you from moving forward in life?

If you are too busy waiting for things to be perfect, you might be missing out on opportunities. There’s never a perfect time, or place – so unless you want to be caught in the constant cycle of chasing perfection, it might be time to take action anyway.

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have started projects that were far from perfect, and turned them into successes along the way.

Let me put it to you this way: you cannot afford to keep chasing perfection.

Perfection is stopping you from making things happen in life because of a fear of failure and it’s just not worth it. The fact is, if you’re not failing enough, then you’re not close to success. So start to look at perfection as a hindrance rather than something to be proud of.

I have a simple approach for breaking the negative perfection cycle and it's this:

Replace perfection with contentment.

Imagine if we could replace our constant pursuit for perfection with pure contentment. Imagine how much happier and relaxed we would be. And I don’t mean inaction when I say contentment. It’s crucial we take action to make things happen in our lives, but we don’t need to do it in a way that is forced or obsessively perfect.

Have a go and next time you’re chasing perfection, take a step back, realize that you’re already perfect and sit back and enjoy the relaxed feeling of being content with where you’re at.

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