#291: Why Perfectionism Is Self-Defeating … and What We Should Focus on Instead

Perfectionism is NOT a virtue. Instead of helping us reach our goals, it often gets in the way of our achieving them.

Even worse, perfectionism is associated with a long list of health problems, including depression and anxiety. That’s why it’s so important that we change the way we think about perfectionism. And, in turn, change the way we think about ourselves.

In today’s podcast episode, I review the problems with perfectionism and suggest a different approach for achieving success, happiness and fulfillment.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

The Problem with Perfectionism

The BBC website has an interesting article on perfectionism. It reveals the research on perfectionism—research that shows perfectionism to be dangerous and on the rise.

For example, social psychologists Thomas Curran and Andrew Hill conducted a meta-analysis of rates of perfectionism from 1989 to 2016.  They found significant increases in perfectionism among undergraduates in the US, UK and Canada. They even go so far as to call it an epidemic!

Why is perfectionism not just unhealthy but also self-defeating? Here’s what the article says:

“Perfectionism, after all, is an ultimately self-defeating way to move through the world. It is built on an excruciating irony: making, and admitting, mistakes is a necessary part of growing and learning and being human. It also makes you better at your career and relationships and life in general. By avoiding mistakes at any cost, a perfectionist can make it harder to reach their own lofty goals.”

Perfectionism is a Way of Thinking About Yourself

This quote is also revelatory: “Perfectionism isn’t a behavior. It’s a way of thinking about yourself.”

In other words, perfectionism is less about what happens to you and more about how you interpret what happens.

When you interpret events negatively, such as “You suck at this!” or “This is hopeless!” . . . you discourage yourself from trying new things. Which prevents you from getting out of your comfort zone, learning from your mistakes, growing your courage and conquering your fears.

What should you do instead? Seek excellence. Value courage over safety.

Because when you do, you’ll be much better for it.

 

 

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