Recognizing the Limits of Perfectionism – Part Two

Earlier this week, I wrote about recognizing how my perfectionism limits me. This wasn’t a realization I’d ever had before, and even though I’ve talked to people about perfectionism, I was a bit blind to how it showed up in my own life. Now that I’ve become aware, I’ve gotten more interested in perfectionism as a concept and how it pops up in our lives. So, I decided to do a little research into the question: is perfectionism good for us or bad for us?

In trying to answer this question, I learned a lot about the complexities of perfectionism. I thought I might be able to find clear arguments for or against perfectionism, but what I found was more of a mixed bag. As a child, I remember hearing a lot about striving for perfection in everything I did. Whether it was school, sports, or anything else I was involved in, I remembered that “practice makes perfect” and took that into everything I did.

Now, I’ll also admit that there was a ton of filtering going on in my brain when I was growing up, so I remember more of my negative moments than my positive ones. But what I thought was “trying my best” often resulted in an endless pursuit of perfection – a pursuit that, obviously, I wouldn’t reach.

More recently, research has focused the toll that perfectionism can take on us, both from a mental and physical health perspective. A BBC article from 2018 wrote about a study in which “the average college student last year was much more likely to have perfectionistic tendencies than a student in the 1990s or early 2000s,” one of many signs that perfectionism in the modern age is both unrealistic and unsustainable. A Psychology Today article from 2019 also noted that “…additionally, the need to appear perfect has become a prominent Western cultural value, due to the pervasive nature of social media.”

Alternatively, many argue that there are positive and negative sides of perfectionism. Though it’s a few years older (2010), this article from Live Science makes the case that

“Perfectionism tends to have two components: a positive side, including things like setting high standards for themselves; and a negative side, which involves more deleterious factors, such as having doubts and concerns over mistakes and feeling pressure from others to be perfect.”

Live Science

Even though I don’t have good connotations with perfectionism, I realize the pervasive attitude of perfectionism that exists in our culture. That attitude has only grown more in our digital age, and people who are growing up today will have much different challenges than I did growing up.

While I’m not going to knock anyone who exudes health perfectionistic traits, I am going to share my new-found knowledge about the limits of perfectionism with anyone who might benefit. There’s probably a lot more research I need to do about the relationship between perfectionism and mental health, but noting these things is a good place to start.


8 thoughts on “Recognizing the Limits of Perfectionism – Part Two

  1. Mentally Ill In America April 7, 2022 / 10:27 am

    I know that’s an old citation, but I don’t seem to care much about what others’ perceptions of me are. Given the message in that particular quote, it doesn’t seem that perfectionism for me is a problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan Smith April 7, 2022 / 10:56 am

      I think in writing this, I learned that I have a lot of perceptions about other people’s perceptions of me, and that’s something I’d like to change. It’s clear now that I have a few things to work out when it comes to perfectionism 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mentally Ill In America April 7, 2022 / 12:25 pm

        I don’t know for sure what you mean, but I do know that perfectionism may not be the issue I thought it was. I really focus on excellence for myself, and The only time I am bothered so to speak, is when I have to back my computer up lol. I try and keep up to date backups, which is important, if that makes sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nathan Smith April 7, 2022 / 1:22 pm

        yeah, totally makes sense! It sounds like you have a good handle on this aspect of yourself, and that’s very refreshing to see – I don’t often get that perspective when I hear people talk about perfectionism.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mentally Ill In America April 7, 2022 / 1:30 pm

        Well, everyone seems to be grappling with something. Your thing may be perfectionism and anxiety/depression, while mine is schizoaffective disorder and the fear rooted in that. Day by day…..


  2. guyleneiswriting April 17, 2022 / 4:33 pm

    I think that people often see only the positive side of perfectionism because, as you write, society values it highly. But the negative sides are many: low self-esteem when one cannot live up to the standards, pressure from society, sometimes the inability to complete a task on time. I think that, just as with many other things, mindfulness and self-awareness are key.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan Smith April 26, 2022 / 11:34 am

      I’m just not learning about the negative sides of perfectionism, and it’s pretty eye-opening. Thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 2 people

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