In a society hell-bent on achievement and prestige, it’s no wonder that so many people strive for perfection in everything they do. After all, if it’s not perfect, then someone else can do it better and is therefore believed to be better. But trying too hard to be perfect can actually have the opposite effect. If you or your significant other has been plagued with a perfectionist drive, then it may be time to let go of the wheel.
Doing so, of course, is not easy, but is absolutely necessary if you want to have a healthy relationship. In fact, perfectionists typically have a hard time maintaining healthy relationships because they project their same perfectionist traits onto their partners, who are human and, by nature, imperfect. Thus, insisting on perfection from a partner puts unfair pressure on them to perform beyond their capabilities and adds unnecessary stress to the relationship as a whole.
The effects of perfectionism
People can never be perfect. To quote John Lennon, “there’s nothing you can do that can’t be done” and more than likely, someone else can not only do the same as you, but can do it better. This is not to say that you shouldn’t try to do your best, but rather that your best is good enough and anything more is unrealistic.
Striving for your best and striving for perfection are two completely different things: one encourages pride and self-worth, and the other discourages it. Here are just a few ways perfectionism can have an adverse effect on those involved.
- Perfectionism casts doubt on one’s self and those around him: When everything is expected to be perfect and isn’t, then the person wrapped in perfectionism will lack trust in those around him, which will yield a hefty price tag when the people closest to him realize they cannot live up to these lofty expectations.
- Perfectionists have hard time learning from experience: One thing they may learn is to not try new experiences if they may result in failure. They take mistakes very personally, and often attempt to find blame elsewhere so that they will not be responsible for it. This move is not only unfair to those on whom the blame ultimately falls, but to the perfectionist herself who cannot gain from these important life lessons
- Perfectionists lack intimacy: One of the most important ways to gain intimacy is through vulnerability. Be it through the disclosure of personal information or through a risk-taking activity, showing our vulnerability to a lover is a key part of intimacy. Perfectionists, however, view vulnerability as weakness and avoid it at all costs.
Letting go of perfectionism to find peace
Nothing on earth is perfect, which is what makes it so unique and amazing. Trees may grow without symmetry and animals may be born with missing limbs, but they are all unique and, with encouragement and support, can still thrive despite their potential setbacks. So, too, is the case with interpersonal relationships. Here are some reasons to put perfection aside and embrace the uniqueness associated with your imperfection.
- Get more accomplished: Perfectionists devote a lot of time and energy into creating the perfect outcome, but doing your best without striving for perfection will actually open up more time in which to get more done. You will be happier with the final outcome, too, which will lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.
- Increase your compassion: When we stop expecting the best from ourselves and our partners, we can learn to appreciate them and ourselves more. With increased compassion for your lover, you can regain intimacy and begin (re)structuring a healthy, rewarding relationship.
- Reduce your anxiety: Anxiety can be defined as fear, worry or unease, and can be brought on by any number of things; one in particular is the fear associated with imperfection. But, when we take the time to embrace our imperfections, we can learn from them rather than fear them. This will not only reduce the stress, but will also increase the over-all happiness within your relationship.
Everywhere we go, it seems that someone is either boasting about their accomplishments or putting others down for theirs. We live in a perfectionist society where people who seemingly lack the drive needed to succeed are condemned for their failures so that others who have done better can feel better about theirs. But, if you get caught up in the hype about the need to be perfect in everything you do – including your relationships – then you are ultimately setting yourself up for failure.
By taking a step back and loosening up your grip on the situation, you can actually increase the odds in your relationship, because, when it comes to love and marriage, understanding your and your partner’s imperfections can actually set the stage for perfection through imperfection.
Sometimes it takes the insight of a professional in order to see things differently, and begin to work toward letting go of perfectionism and working toward peace. If you feel that speaking to an unbiased third party may help, please give the counselors at OC Relationship Center a call today at 949-393-8662 or book your appointment online.