“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” ~Augustine of Hippo
You may not realize it, but you are a perfectionist and perfectionism is a low standard.
Huh? Wait a minute, Skippy. You can’t call me a perfectionist and say I have low standards all in the same breath.
Well actually, I can. I can because of what you are a perfectionist about.
Perfectionism is never about the discovery of ultimate truth, it is about the enforcement of a predefined, limited perception.
It’s understandable really. You are just trying to make sense of an unruly world, perhaps to enforce a little order among the chaos. The problem is your imposed order is a limiter and true perfection is unlimited.
This is where we get to the important distinction between perfection and perfectionism. Perfectionism is actually a misnomer. It would more accurately be called perspectivism. It is about implementing a single perspective on a situation, albeit perfectly.
“Perfectionism is more about the “ism” than the perfection.” click to tweet
All right then, so how do we raise the bar? It is by the injection of freedom. From freedom, creativity can be born. And from creativity, we introduce the possibility of genius. Think of anyone you believe to be a genius. Is it more likely that they will always do everything reliably and predictably, or that they will come out of left field on a regular basis?
Genius requires a tolerance of imperfection. Paradoxically, it is out of this environment that true perfection is born. However perfect things are now, there is always something “perfecter”. If we stop at our perfectionism, how will we ever get there?
So let go of your perfectionism. Life is an upward spiral. You are not done yet. You will never be done. But consider this: if you think something is perfect now, imagine that it can be even better. Once you imagine that, realize that it can be even better than that. When you get used to this idea, you realize how limiting and even how silly it is to be a perfectionist.
Where have you been short-changed by perfectionism? Tell us about it by commenting below.
Photo credit: Mike Stimpson
8 thoughts on “Perfectionism Is Setting The Bar Too Low”
I guess perfectionism just cuts you off from other possibilities. But at least it’s setting some kind of standard. I don’t know, I go back and forth on this. Maybe perfectionism isn’t ideal but maybe it’s better than nothing?
I will reference the title and say that, yes, at least you are setting the bar but you are setting it too low. If the problem is no one is standing for quality, the answer isn’t to settle for low quality. If you are going to bother to take a stand, stand for the highest quality you can. Better yet, stand for increasing, augmenting, and improving quality. The focus is then on the forward motion, not the target position.
As I state in my About page of my website: “Nobody’s perfect and I’m done being nobody.”
I totally agree with you Kenneth, once I gave up trying to be perfect all the time, I found grace and was able to truly enjoy myself and life.
Good insight, Kenneth.
I gave up perfectionism in grade school when I realized that getting some “B” grades among the “A’s” was “good enough”, and fit into my life-style and childhood interests. I didn’t need to have a perfect (4.0) gpa, which would require me to work harder than I wanted at schoolwork, to the detriment of my baseball playing, my musical interests, just hanging out with my dog, or gorging myself with peaches in the summer. My parents didn’t insist on perfection, just focused effort and enthusiasm at whatever activity I participated in. To this day I adhere to those principles. Did your parents insist on “perfectionism”? In what way? And what were the rewards or penalties for either achieving it or falling short? Do you attribute your perfectionism goals to your upbringing, or is it something relatively new in your life? Do you attribute personal failures to your upbringing, too?
Attribution is a sticky wicket. It puts one at risk of blaming which is code for “giving your power away”.
I often find myself torn between reaching for what I say is “perfection” (so am then called a perfectionist) when I’m really reaching for an elegance. Something that is not overly simplistic, nor overly complex. Searching for the elegant solution seems to keep any sort of perfectionist tendencies at bay, then I can fine tune the idea later on to whatever vision has presented itself as. I agree that perfectionism is limiting – it’s scary branching out and doing things that are new and invite (for lack of a better word) chaos or wildness into our psyches/thoughts/ideas. If we allow the wildness to enter our world, then we can really see what needs to be done. Besides, if we were perfect, we wouldn’t need to be here.
In mathematics there is the concept of elegance and I’ve always liked it. An elegant proof in geometry for instance is the proof that requires the least number of steps to reach a solution.
Another word I use more often for this idea is “sublime”. Something that is sublime is no more complicated than it needs to be but also not overly simplified — it is Goldilocks’ “just right”.
Wow. This is a great little nugget of reality. Perfectionism vs. Perfection, and how perfectionism is, ironically, the path away from success. Thanks much for this insight! I have been forced to deal with this in my own business, and this has helped a lot today… Best, Bruce