The Curse Of Perfectionism – How It’s Sabotaging Our Happiness

Nmesoma Okwudili


December 3, 2023

Perfectionism, a devious impostor parading as the beacon of excellence, is nothing short of a malevolent curse, ruthlessly gnawing away at our happiness and well-being. The relentless obsession with attaining faultlessness in every facet of existence may initially appear as an honourable ambition, but beneath the surface lies a venomous serpent that injects stress, anxiety, and forsaken chances into our lives.

A relentless personality trait known as perfectionism is characterised by an unquenchable desire for high standards and ruthless self-criticism. People who identify as perfectionists have a tendency to set extremely high standards, focus on flaws, and carry an ongoing burden of worry as a result of their tireless pursuit.

An insatiable search of the unreachable is where the malicious dance with perfectionism begins. The bar is set unreasonably high for perfectionists, who are fixated on achieving perfection in everything they do, including their own reflection in the mirror and professional endeavours. This never-ending pursuit is not only draining but also essentially self-destructive because it typically ends in the bitter taste of disappointment as unmet expectations loom.

Perfectionism frequently has its origins in a paralysing fear of failing. Mistakes are sometimes portrayed by perfectionists as catastrophic hurricanes, which invites a barrage of self-inflicted criticism. This paralysing fear of failing paralyses people, entangling them in a web of anxiety that prevents them from setting out on risky excursions, venturing into unfamiliar territory, and pursuing their innermost passions. It promotes a destructive mentality in which the tireless pursuit of ambitions is eclipsed by merely avoiding mistakes.

The ceaseless pursuit of perfection serves as a crucible for the cultivation of anxiety and stress. Perfectionists bear the heavy mantle of self-doubt, haunted by the persistent notion that they fall short of adequacy. This ordeal gives rise to chronic stress and, in its most pernicious form, precipitates burnout. The mental and emotional tax of perfectionism is staggering, laying siege to one’s overall well-being with unrelenting force, casting a long shadow of detriment over life’s canvas.

While perfectionism is frequently seen as an isolated struggle, it can also ruin personal relationships and have a significant impact on the lives of people close to the perfectionist. The constant quest of perfection spills outside of oneself and taints how people are seen and judged by perfectionists. This spillover breeds a toxic brew of false expectations in relationships, promoting an environment of dissatisfaction, cultivating resentment, and igniting disputes. The continuous examination of the perfectionist significantly strains the delicate fabric of interpersonal relationships in a world where the fundamental foundation of humanity is grounded in our collective flaws.

Perfectionism’s tendency to cause avoidance and procrastination is one of its contradictory effects. It appears as though the quest for perfection turns into a trap, entangling the perfectionist in a web of worry and terror. Tasks are frequently put off indefinitely or avoided entirely because the fear of falling short of unrealistically high standards becomes so paralysing. This procrastination is not just a harmless delay; it actively hinders productivity and can have catastrophic implications on one’s career and personal progress, leaving a huge gap between ambitions and reality.

Perfectionism’s curse ultimately results in the theft of happiness. The immovable obstacle to contentment is the perpetual state of discontent that perfectionists experience, whether it be with their own deeds or their achievements. They tend to focus more on their perceived flaws than on their accomplishments, which deprives them of the great joy and fulfilment that success should legitimately offer. This constant self-criticism turns a commendable goal of greatness into a ruthless thief of life’s most priceless goods, creating a self-imposed barrier to the pursuit of happiness.

Liberating oneself from the suffocating clutches of perfectionism requires a profound recognition of its malevolent grasp. The initial step, almost an act of defiance against an oppressive norm, involves acknowledging that the mythical pedestal of perfection is a barren illusion. In this human theatre, no one wears a crown of flawlessness. Mistakes, far from being unforgivable sins, are the very essence of our shared journey. To escape the relentless gravity of perfectionism, we must adopt the armour of a growth mindset, embracing the belief that advancement and enlightenment spring from our missteps and imperfections.

But it doesn’t stop there. To unshackle the chains that bind us to perfectionism, we must wield the potent sword of realism. Setting goals that are not distant stars, forever beyond reach, but tangible and attainable milestones, serves as the cornerstone of emancipation. The ceaseless pursuit of perfection is a mirage, destined to lead us astray. Instead, we must redirect our focus to the ceaseless quest for betterment and progress. It’s a pivot towards a more balanced and sustainable path of personal and professional growth.

What about compassion for oneself? It is the foundation of our uprising against the perfectionist government. It is a directive to treat oneself with the same love and compassion as one would freely provide to one’s closest friends. The greatest act of resistance is realising that our defects are not a scarlet letter on our souls but rather the stones that lay the road to our happiness and self-improvement. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that, in the human experience, errors do not equate to a devaluation of our worth; rather, they serve as the catalyst for advancement.

It is nothing short of a tactical masterstroke to seek support from people close to us or experts in the field of mental health in our fight against the chains of perfectionism. It takes guts to be defiant enough to reveal our troubles and expose the most private aspects of our emotional struggles. It’s a request for our loved ones and subject-matter experts to offer us a new perspective on how to see our flaws, which will perhaps help us find a haven of self-acceptance.

Perfectionism, often dressed as a paragon of virtue, is, in reality, a treacherous serpent that coils itself around the roots of our happiness and well-being. Its insatiable appetite for unattainable standards, its haunting spectre of failure, its relentless anxiety, and the collateral damage it inflicts on our relationships form a lethal cocktail of toxicity. It’s high time we unmask this perilous trait, confront it, and unshackle ourselves from its grip. The pursuit of happiness, that elusive beacon, thrives not on the futile chase of perfection but finds its essence in the nurturing soil of self-acceptance, self-compassion, and the gritty yet beautiful journey of imperfect human growth. It’s time to revolt against the tyranny of perfectionism and embrace the beautifully imperfect mosaic of our human existence.


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