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Title: Addiction to Perfection Author: Margaret Paul, Ph.D. E-mail: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright: © 2005 by Margaret Paul URL: http://www.innerbonding.com Word Count: 727 Category: Self Improvement
Addiction to Perfection By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
The following email was sent to me by Karen, a member of our website:
“For no obvious reason this morning, I was feeling anxious and depressed. I looked at it and realized that false belief creating all this was that I have to be perfect in order for me to allow myself to feel happiness. Yet, there are so many conditions for me to be perfect that it is almost impossible to achieve. Still, I have driven myself to be ‘perfect’ sometimes and discovered it that ensuing happiness lasts about 2 seconds and I am exhausted.
“Lately, procrastination is somehow wrapped up in this conundrum too. Maybe I don't even try things because I know if it's not done perfectly I won't value it anyway. Most of my life, my critically inspired drive propelled me to achieve some amazing things (including opening my own business in L.A.). Somehow, I feel that if I don't criticize and punish myself then I'll never go anywhere or do anything. Yet truth is, right now, I'm not really productive. There must be another way!”
Needing to be perfect is a form of control. The wounded, critical part of us believes that, “If I am perfect (whatever that means!) then people will like me, love me, admire me, approve of me, pay attention to me, or validate me. Then I will feel worthy. I can control how people feel about me by being perfect.” The need to control how people feel about us comes from making others responsible for defining our worth. The false belief is that if someone likes you, then you are worthy, and then you can be happy. But, as Karen said, “the ensuing happiness last about 2 seconds and I am exhausted.” Trying to be perfect is exhausting and good feelings are very short-lived.
In addition, having to be perfect in order to gain approval often leads to procrastination. The fear of disapproval and failure if you are not perfect can be so great that it stops you from taking action you need to take. Judging yourself to get yourself to do things “perfectly” often backfires, leading to paralysis instead of creativity and productivity, as it has with Karen.