perfectionism is dumb

because you are dumb

Talking with a friend I made this past year helped me realize how perfectionist I am. This was indicated in the previous post; I focus way too much on too many things. I’ve never really thought of myself as “perfectionist”, though I certainly do like the idea of perfection and seek it in most things. Which is fine, until “perfect becomes the enemy of good” or any number of idioms and canned motivationals. Which are fine if you can consume canned goods, but I’ve never really understood [why perfectionism is harmful] well enough to recognize the situation and stop myself as i’m doing it or starting to do it.

There are things that I hear that I agree with, but they’re not sufficient to really change my mind. “Everyone starts somewhere” for example doesn’t really work if I believe I’ve done it for a fair amount of time already. “Everyone makes mistakes” doesn’t really tell me anything either, unless I’m also told that I’m supposed to be making mistakes, which no one has ever said to me for whatever reason. Probably etiquette.

The one that ended up working for me was “you don’t actually know what perfect is”, therefore “you’re really being harsh on yourself for the sake of being harsh on yourself”.

If you admit you don’t know what perfect is, then everything should solve itself. If you do actually know what perfect is, then it follows that you know what you need to do to get there. If you know what you need to do, then you are doing it or attempting to do it well enough so that you can get to the next step. In other words, perfectionism requires imperfection, at least for a human executing in real time. For the people in Keat’s Urns or stories maybe it’s not required, but we’re not either of those.

This assumes that perfectionism doesn’t occur in goals which are achievable in one step. All mental solutions (as opposed to pharmaceutical solutions) to perfectionism seem to be rooted in appeal to a grander goal. But then again, ‘perfectionism in one step’ generally isn’t seen as a problem. We do it all the time and it’s encouraged basically everywhere.

It’s called “drilling”. Or “training”. Or “conditioning”.

In other news I have a new blog for collecting quotes. This time I actually wrote some stuff on it for a bit before talking about it, so I’m fairly certain it has enough life in it to sustain for a decent amount of time.


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