The meaning behind the above quote is that in general perfection cannot be reached. When you aim for perfectionism in all areas of your life you stop setting realistic achievable goals. This is because you believe you can’t achieve them so you don’t bother attempting to, which affects your contentment.
However, perfectionism can be healthy if it is isolated to only one achievable area. The difference is how you feel about yourself and why you are attempting perfection. In some sports, Olympians can achieve a perfect score. However, remember that to get one perfect score—on one skill or routine—they also have practised the skill thousands of times imperfectly. They may have also injured themselves attempting to complete the skill. Athletes accept this as part of the journey and get back on track to do their best. They know and accept that while they may achieve one perfect score—they won’t always be able to keep this up and on a different occasion, they may achieve a low score for the same skill or routine. It is what it is.
The following table considers some of the differences between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism.
|HEALTHY PERFECTIONISM||UNHEALTHY PERFECTIONISM|
|Achieve your personal best||Increasing anxiety due to fear of not achieving goals and self-worth is only achieved through completing unachievable goals|
|Do a good job at your workplace||Setting yourself up to fail then being afraid to try|
|Do the best you can in specific areas of your life e.g. Olympians with perfect scores or students who score high scores in some exams||Fearing failure to such an extent that you avoid the task at hand|
|Setting high but realistic and achievable goals||Setting unachievable goals|
If you want to aim for perfectionism, make sure it is healthy and achievable for you. Aiming for perfectionism in all areas of your life creates so much anxiety that you never get started and as a result your self-worth and content of life plummets.