Seeking Perfection Isn't Virtuous, It's Problematic

Trying to be perfect is psychologically exhausting as well as damaging.
Seeking Perfection Isn't Virtuous, It's Problematic
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Written by Yamila Papa

Last update: 22 December, 2022

Seeking perfection is an endless and impossible task. Indeed, when the ideals you set for yourself are too high, it becomes far more difficult to achieve them. In fact, you feel emotionally and psychologically exhausted, because you’re fighting with yourself. Then, you feel guilty. You start beating yourself up for not having been able to achieve perfection.

In the search for so-called ‘perfection’, you have to mold yourself based on what you consider to be ‘desirable’. You want to be the one who’s most loved, who’s never wrong, the chosen one, the one who obtains the highest qualifications, and the one who always does everything ‘perfectly’. Just thinking about it is tiring. That’s because trying to be ‘the perfect person’ for your parents, partner, teacher, boss, friends, and even society is something that’s physically, emotionally, and psychologically exhausting. Furthermore, you often have to get rid of your own desires to conform to what others expect of you.

While you’re busy trying to be perfect, you put aside your own feelings or desires. You put on a perpetually smiling mask but that brightness doesn’t extend beyond. In fact, you’re unable to really feel. That’s because you’ve locked yourself up as you have the need to stay in control at all times. This causes several imbalances.

Mental rigidity

If you want to achieve perfection all the time, you’re rigid in various areas of your life. As far as your physique is concerned, tension is ‘deposited’ in your muscles and you’re unable to move them properly. At a cognitive level, you can only see in black and white and not gray. While, emotionally, things are even more difficult. That’s because you can’t ever see your feelings as perfect, so you repress them. Therefore, you never say what you feel or what you’re really experiencing.

You also demonstrate this rigidity when making decisions. Because if you were wrong, in your eyes, it’d be a catastrophe. Indeed, as a perfectionist, the word wrong doesn’t even enter your vocabulary. This means you may experience many problems and doubts when trying to choose the right path, however simple it may be. Indeed, wanting to reach the highest level of perfection comes at an extremely high cost as you think that one mistake will spoil everything.

Seeking perfection in a relationship

If you continually seek perfection you’ll have problems maintaining a stable partner or having good times with other people. You’ll also find it really difficult to be spontaneous or to get carried away by your emotions. As a matter of fact, love makes you feel vulnerable, because it leaves you exposed, and that disarms your self-imposed rigidity. For instance, your partner may realize that you’re not so perfect after all. On the other hand, they may, like you, continue to believe that you’re perfect and idealize you. This isn’t healthy.

The mask of passive-aggressive behavior.

Seeking perfection in the workplace

In your workplace, seeking perfection means you don’t recognize any limits. You focus so much on the minor details that it takes you an age to complete a task. In fact, you’re so focused on the ‘micro’ that you ignore the ‘macro’ completely. Wanting to be perfect at work is also risky because it can mean that you don’t carry things out smoothly and your productivity may even decrease. Although the overall result might be better, the time it’s taken you cancels out this benefit.

All this causes the feeling of a lack of self-realization and a reduced self-concept of yourself. If you aspire to be perfect in each and every aspect of your life, you’re fighting against the very essence of being human. Furthermore, not being able to reach that ideal makes you feel guilty and depressed.

Nobody’s perfect

The secret lies in knowing that you weren’t born to be perfect. You were born to be real, with true emotions and flaws. Remember that nobody can be perfect in everything they do. On the other hand, you can seek to be the best possible in certain areas of your life. Finally, letting go of rigidity, lightening your loads, and knowing that you can learn from your mistakes is a good way to be happier.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.