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Blog articles share my experience and expertise in personal development, mental wellness, entrepreneurial and business development, and law.

Aiming for Perfection...and Landing in Depression

Nicole Cameron

"The condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects"

"The action or process of improving something until it is faultless or as faultless as possible"

That is perfection.  Who doesn't want to be perfect? Whether we like to admit it or not, deep down inside, there is a perfectionist dwelling inside of us. It is the reason why we strive for success, excellence, happiness, beauty, etc.  There are plenty of reasons why perfection appeals to us, and there's usually some tangible, or intangible, benefit attached to it.  It is the reason why we seek validation, acceptance, and respect, among other things.  It is the reason why we care about how others perceive us. You probably read the last sentence and thought to yourself, "nah, I don't care about how others perceive me!" but I'm telling you, you do! If you don't care about how you're perceived, then who is going to acknowledge your perfection? How else will you measure your perfection? 

Perfection is subjective and will look and feel different for each person, but for the most part, perfection is defined by the standard we've set for ourselves.  The truth is, that standard may never be met.  You may think you've done your very best, but seeing it better executed by someone else may cause you to raise your standard to compete with theirs--hence the sayings "practice makes perfect" and "perfect your craft".  This is the process of improving something until it is faultless, or as faultless as possible.  Some people may say it's growth, but it's really growth toward perfection.  

Others may have reached that pinnacle of perfection. Some people have the perfect career, the perfect interior decorated house, and the perfect car; or the perfect marriage, and the perfect family.  The perfect this and the perfect that!  You know, the "their perfect, has nothing on your perfect," type of perfect!  I mean come on with all this perfection!  It's just enough to make you want to continuously perfect your craft so you can be on their level.  But we only see the finished, polished product.  We do not realize the hard work that it took to get there, the mental suffering they may have faced along the way, or the damage done to our self-esteem caused by comparing and competing.  I'll be the first to say, there is nothing wrong with striving for perfection.  However, perfection comes with a price and it is maintained at the expense of our mental health.  When the image is tainted and things begin to fall apart, while quite humbling at the least, the despair becomes too much to handle.  It leads to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, and even worse, suicide.  When obsessing over perfection becomes detrimental to your mental health, it is time to reevaluate the standards you've set. 

So here's my truth, I am a perfectionist!  I strive to be perfect in multiple areas of my life because I want to have more income, love and happiness, and respect and acceptance from my network.  However, at times, I agonize over the details way too much.  Whenever I put myself out there to be judged by others, I want to receive nothing short of a "10," but when I realize I am falling short, or someone points out areas of improvement, I am hard on myself.  Once upon a time, this triggered depression and anxiety.  I used to engage in negative self-talk and allow guilt and shame to consume my thoughts.  I became discouraged, withdrawn, and lacked the confidence needed to attempt the task again.  Being afraid to fail or being reminded of a previous failure, I procrastinated or sabotaged an opportunity. None of this was good for my personal development and growth.    

Self-discovery increased my self-awareness. Learning how to manage my expectations, being less critical of my actions, and embracing my imperfections, has helped me reduce the length of my depression and anxiety episodes.  Now, I strive for progression over perfection.  I've learned to show more self-compassion, and be less self-critical.  I encourage myself to remain motivated, rather than become discouraged or withdrawn.  I remind myself that things may not be as ideal as I prefer, and that it's okay.  Things do not always go as planned.  Maybe the timing isn't right.  Maybe I was at fault.  Or maybe, the reality is, I didn't work as hard as I thought.  And guess what? It's okay! As long as I learn from past mistakes and strive to do my best, I will grow into the best version of me!

What has been your experience with perfectionism? What can you learn from past mistakes to help you progress? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.  Don't forget to like and subscribe for more!