Orange County is a center of high achievement, entrepreneurial accomplishment, and all the trappings that come with material success. So it should come as no surprise that a piece of my practice includes working with clients who are struggling with the problem of perfection, and the bad effects it brings into lives. It is my experience that people struggling with perfection are left with two alternatives, all–or nothing. It is also my experience that these two options offered by perfection, either leaves people exhausted, or experiencing stuck-ness and suspended creativity. In other words, perfection has the ability to remove the joy from life, regardless of the amount of success a person achieves.
According to Stephen Madigan Ph.D., perfection masks itself in the world of attitudes of excellence and high achievement. Madigan believes that although perfection is unattainable, we are bombarded with messages regularly via various culturally institutions that tell us we are not measuring up, and that we should continue to pursue perfection with even more energy, leaving the people who struggle with perfection with a life experience of “not good enough.”
As an entrepreneur myself who has experienced high achievement and material prosperity I appreciate people giving their best, the experience of success, directed passion, and lessons that come with these endeavors. But when perfection shows up and begins to diminish our accomplishments and tells us we need to do more, it is time to take action to get free from perfection’s influence. Madigan offers several considerations, in the form of questions that might help someone struggling with perfection to begin to see its effects, how it works, and then get a bit of distance from its influence.
In what ways does perfection work to blind you to your achievements as a person, parent, employee, and partner?
In what ways has perfection given you a less-than-worthy idea of yourself?
In what ways have you been trained and pressured into ideas of perfection even thought perfection is not possible?
Are the pressures of perfection any different between men and women?
Excelling in business, sports, or working passionately in our respective communities and circles of influence are wonderful things. But if the joy of participating in these activities is being drained away by the influence of perfection, it might be time to take a closer look at how perfection is manufactured in our lives, and then how it might begin to be dissolved.
Reference: Madigan, S. (2011). Narrative Therapy. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.