The Curse of Perfectionism: Trying to be Perfect in an Imperfect World.

Very often I come across articles that speak about how to be a perfect mother, boyfriend, wife, employer etc. What is being perfect? Can anyone be perfect?

Perfection is a “perception”; when things go according to the way you want them to go and look and feel the way you want them to be, they seem perfect to you. In my opinion, perfection is an attitude, a perception, a perspective, an expectation! It is the expectation that things will be the way you want them to be. It is the perspective that you take.

This need for perfection can be very strong in people who have been abused as a child or who have had very critical parents or relatives. They were always put on an edge trying to prove themselves to their siblings or parents and were made to think that they were not good enough. They felt that they needed to be “Perfect” to get the attention, praise and love from their parents.

Even a person who is not from a dysfunctional family can get caught up in the need to be perfect. In today’s age where success is measured by the materialistic things that you have, it is very easy to succumb to the mirage of perfection. Perfection is an illusion and it can literally suck out any potential for joy that you  have in your life.


Characteristics of People who crave for perfection (Based on the real life cases)

  1. You compare yourself with your “perfect “Self that you expect to be.
  2. You have this need to be perfect in expressing yourself.
  3. You feel that you should do everything right the first time.
  4. You’re demanding of yourself to do things “perfectly” all the time.
  5. You’d like to be a perfect mother, father, daughter, employee, employer etc.
  6. You wish that you were a ‘perfect child’ when you were growing up.
  7. You’re harsh on yourself for behaving less ‘perfectly’.
  8. You always want to be right and ‘perfect’ in front of other people.
  9. You cannot relax till you feel that the task was handled ‘perfectly’.
  10. You feel bad that that you do not have a perfect Body.

This results in –

  1. Putting extra pressure on yourself.
  2. Pushing your body and mind to achieve certain things that you perceive to be perfect.
  3. Dissatisfaction with your life.
  4. Search for a “Perfect ” mission in life leading to discontentment with everything.
  5. Very high expectations from yourself and people around you.
  6. Constantly changing jobs and careers as a result of wanting perfection in everything.
  7. Frequently breaking relationships in search of a “Perfect” Partner.
  8. Inability to be compassionate with yourself and others.
  9. Thinking that everyone else is perfect except you.

How to let go of this need for Perfection?

Being comfortable with imperfection doesn’t mean that you are giving up or that you start procrastinating. It also doesn’t mean that you do not achieve anything or don’t have any goals or vision, as most people would believe. It simply means that you are not driven by the need for perfection, but by the need to do the best that you can and are open to failures and criticism in the journey towards your goals. And that you can be friendly with yourself during this life journey.

Maslow states that “self-actualized individuals accept their nature as it is, despite personal weaknesses and imperfections; comfortable with themselves and with the world around them, they do not seek to change “the water because it is wet, or the rocks because they are hard” (Millon et al, 2003)

You need to accept yourself without shame and be comfortable in your own skin. You could stop comparing yourself unfavorably with others constantly. It’s one thing to have a role model and it’s quite another to beat yourself up for not being exactly like your role model.

A person who has high self esteem is the one who is “open to criticism and comfortable about acknowledging mistakes because one’s self-esteem is not tied to an image of “perfection.” (Branden,1992 )

If you are always worried about perfection, then you are always blaming yourself for everything. There is no place for self acceptance or self forgiveness.

In relationships, there is no one who can be perfect. As Sue Johnson aptly puts, “Your partner needs emotional presence, not perfection”.

I will conclude by saying that we need to develop self compassion, compassion for others and let go of this need for perfection.

References –

Millon, T., & Lerner, M. J., (Eds.). (2003) Handbook of psychology: Personality and social psychology. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

Branden, N., (1992) The power of self esteem. Florida: Health Communications.


About Puja

I am a Counseling Psychologist, Certified EFT Practitioner & Accredited EFT master Trainer of Trainers with EFTi. In my 15+ years of experience, I have effectively used EFT and Counseling to help clients heal their emotional and physical problems.
This entry was posted in Compassion, Self Image and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Curse of Perfectionism: Trying to be Perfect in an Imperfect World.

  1. Lea says:

    Ah…perfectionism. It’s something I have struggled with, and been rewarded for, throughout my life. The most liberating moment in my life was when I actually contracted for a B during graduate school instead of going for the A. You did a great job of describing both the process and the consequence. Well done.

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