Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
Do you constantly hear this little voice in your head that criticizes you for everything that you do? Making you feel stressed, unhappy and tired of trying your hardest? In today’s world, many people from all walks of life are crippled by this mysterious feeling of burden and darkness in their daily lives. Observed closely, it can be traced back to having this unrelenting expectation to be perfect in a lot of areas of their lives, so that it seems being “good” is simply not “good enough”. The fear of being judged as not good enough is deeply engrained. While these people wrongly believe perfectionism may function as a drive to success and life, they are mistaken to see perfectionism as a motivation to a betterment of themselves. Instead, it can be rather self-destructive in that has the potential to develop into full-blown anxiety, depressive or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
In fact, many come into therapy with complaints of severe anxiety, bouts of depression, highly strung and burnt out, or even troubled by procrastination, poor self-esteem and a feeling of being really stuck – but never really knowing why – which can be quite debilitating and confusing. The awful truth is that perfectionism often kills creativity, enjoyment in life, parenthood, love and relationship satisfaction; all of the things that really matter to us, and essentially, make us feel guilty for being human. Perfectionism can eat away at you, and make you feel worse than how you deserve to feel about yourself.
Therapy can help you understand the mechanisms driving your perfectionism – unique but unknown to you – and how you can get out of the cycle of self-disappointment, shame and struggle that leads to all the distress and unhappiness in life. Your therapist can help you explore and find ways for you to develop a more realistic view of yourself and acceptance of your imperfections. You can radically change your life, and finally, be happy to enjoy life. Sound perfect?
For a more thorough read about the trap of perfectionism, I recommend Pathways to Bliss: Joseph Campbell on Why Perfectionism Kills Love and How to Save Your Relationship (https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/06/29/pathways-to-bliss-joseph-campbell-marriage-relationships/)
Joyce Ong, Clinical Psychologist Registrar at New Paths