Striving for perfection is a pain in the proverbial

In the summer of 2017 when my daughter finished her school years I felt a sense of loss. Call it ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ for want of a better word but it isn’t an entirely accurate description either. My daughter enrolled to study at King’s College in London so has not actually left home. Still, I felt a sense of loss because I was very involved with her school life. I walked with her to school till her last day. ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’, I have discovered, is as much a physical loss as an emotional dislocation. In that space I developed ‘Perfectionism Syndrome’. It’s been two years and I can tell you that it sucks.

In one’s head one imagines perfection to be much like the photo above. Attain perfection and you have achieved something akin to Nirvana – blue skies, idyllic setting and peace. Fat chance.

The reality of striving for perfectionism is that it leaves you feeling like a failure more often than not and, of course, exhausted. I have a great looking patio and instead of spending time in it I am forever working to get it to look better. I could also go on about the rest of my home – polished floors, dusting etc. I am done with perfectionism.

The startling realisation that I suffer from it dawned upon me when I was scrolling through my instagram looking at photos of fabulous looking gardens. Some more fabulous than others. ‘Where does it end?’, I wondered to myself. I had just bought two more plants too in a situation where anymore plants doesn’t really add to the beauty of my backyard. When one’s joy plateaus it is time to take stock.

My patio

Ever wondered whether you suffer from perfectionism? The symptoms are:

  • feel like you fail at everything you try
  • procrastinate regularly — you might resist starting a task because you’re afraid that you’ll be unable to complete it perfectly
  • struggle to relax and share your thoughts and feelings
  • become very controlling in your personal and professional relationships
  • become obsessed with rules, lists, and work, or alternately, become extremely apathetic

Perfectionism is medically recognised as a condition that can induce mental health problems. Yet, somebody who proclaims themselves to be a ‘perfectionist’ is greeted with admiration. We immediately feel that we aren’t quite trying as hard as we should.

Real confidence does not come from trying so hard that it busts you. Real confidence comes from knowing that perfection only exists in the unreal world of social media photographs or in the heads of politicians who tell us that we need to be more productive or try harder. The latter from a bunch of people who are on holiday while the country faces nail studded crossroads.

Forget all about being perfect and accept yourself flaws and all. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try your level best to achieve your best outcomes. It just means that your best outcome does not have to be perfect. Nothing needs to be perfect whether it’s one’s home, hair, work, children or, even, something as mundane as one’s backyard.

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