It’s the ultimate humblebrag. You’re saying it because it implies you’re obsessed with perfection; with stopping at nothing until things are as magnificent as they can be.
“Oh, I’m just such a perfectionist. Other people seem to be able to move on from what they’re doing when it’s half done. Me? No, I need to make sure it’s perfect.”
What could be wrong with that?
As Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert points out in her Conversations With Richard Fidler interview, people wear their perfection like a “badge of honour, as if it signals high tastes and exquisite standards”.
Elizabeth Gilbert. Image via Facebook.
It's the clever, award-winning child in the family of personality traits.
The truth is, being a perfectionist is not always something to hold up as a shiny reminder of what kind of person you are. Yes, striving for excellence in life is admirable, period. As is learning to challenge yourself and set goals. But an obsession with it can be unhealthy. Damaging, even.
As Gilbert points out, the perfectionist label can hold you back from what you really want to achieve. It's procrastination masquerading as a positive characteristic.
"We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism. No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it. At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is..."
Watch MWN's co-founder, Mia Freedman, talk to Elizabeth Gilbert. It's amazing. (Post continues after video.)
While Gilbert might be talking specifically about creativity here, this quest for flawlessness she speaks of is something most women, myself included, have embarked upon at some stage or another.
Whether it’s our looks, our work, our mothering skills, our relationships, our bodies — the pressure to be perfect can be crippling.
It’s not good enough to be fairly good at something. To have done well. Forget reaching for the stars — you need to be aiming for Pluto. We need to be over-capable. Why give 100 per cent when you can give 150?
The perfection trap is something Olivia Patrick, clinical psychologist and director of Shape Your Mind, has witnessed women falling into over the years.
“Perfectionism is certainly correlated with various mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders. The key here is the second part of the definition of perfectionism – the basing of one's self-worth on one's ability to achieve the unrelenting standards that are set,” explains Patrick.
We're constantly being asked to reach next levels. Image via iStock.
“In my work with clients with eating disorders, perfectionistic traits are very common. Almost all of my clients with Anorexia Nervosa have unrelenting standards in regards to thinness, where the goalposts are constantly shifted and no amount of weight loss ever feels ‘good enough’.”