Living with Perfectionism

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

perfectionism (n.)
refusal to accept any standard short of perfection

The other day, my friends and I attended a local university's education expo. The university made a visit to my school a few days before, and yesterday, because my friends and I decided to try and apply, we submitted all our admission requirements and did an interview for them to determine whether or not we were qualified for receiving the scholarships we desired.

At one point in the interview, the lady asked,
"So Joanne, according to you, what do you think are your strengths and weaknesses?"
I kind of saw this coming, and had already set up an answer in the back of my head. I began answering and at one point I mentioned the one most noticeable personality trait I have, that other people already know about me as well.
"Well, I'm a perfectionist..."
The words tasted like vinegar as I uttered it a little quicker than I'd expected. The thing is that I've never actually admitted it so straightforwardly. But it's true, it's been a part of who I am perhaps since middle school. The title of this post might make it sound like a disease or personality disorder, but that's not the case. 

In psychology, perfectionism is defined as a trait characterised by a person's strive for flawlessness. We set immensely high standards and expectations, both upon ourselves and other people. I remember times where I would get a 99 on a test (a bloody 99, which in retrospect, is actually not too horrible) and I would cry. My friends would look at me and think God, is she really this hard on herself?

When you're a perfectionist, failures (or flaws, even) are strictly unacceptable. Many people validate the mistakes they make and simply call it "being human", but for perfectionists, this is almost never the case. When you fail, you think it's because the circumstances went against you, or it must be something you lack. You start questioning everything, and your mind turns to the familiar cycle of "I should've done that instead", "This is all wrong", or "It shouldn't have happened that way". You never feel truly satisfied.

But why?

Well hey, perfectionists, why are we like this? Why do we drown ourselves in phases of "not good enough"s and refuse to give ourselves room for imperfections? Why do we choose to give ourselves that pressure of getting it right

Perfectionism is a sprout that could come from many different seeds. The most common ones are low self-esteem and the toxic habit of overthinking. We don't feel like we are worth the chance of starting over or correcting flaws. 

Comparison also comes into play. We fall into the trap of comparing our level 2 to another person's level 15, failing to take into account that they must've had many trials and errors themselves before reaching their success. But we don't think like that. We grow obsessive, thinking "oh God why can't I do this one simple thing that that person seems to have easily mastered?"

Why do we continue? It's time to step out of that shell. We want absolute perfection, but we have to learn to acknowledge limitations. To live life as it is, not through what you expect out of it, or what you want to achieve. You try your best, and with whatever the outcome, you learn to think that yes, this is enough.

Now I use my perfectionism as fuel to drive me forward. It gives a good set of motivation, because high standards pull out more productivity. It's true that for perfectionists, working is easy. We work at our own pace, and are equipped with a lot of determination. So perhaps, perfectionism is a shrub that we don't need to cut down, but we just need to prune. Life isn't always perfect, and we will not (never) be perfect, but wouldn't it feel great to actually embrace it, instead of constantly trying otherwise?

I'll write again soon.


  1. This is so motivating! I love that high standards = more productivity! I'm a perfectionist when it comes to things I'm truly passionate about and I totally agree, it just makes me work harder but I still kinda enjoy it! Lovely post.

    Anika |

  2. I loved this post, I found it really inspiring. I think we can all become perfectionists when something really matters to us :)

    Rosy | Sparkles of Light Blog

  3. I love your quote about pruning the shrub that is perfectionism. :]

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  4. What a cool photo, I love the black and white

  5. Thank you for writing such inspirational post!

    Selene Addicted

  6. It's great you're getting a handle on it and turning your weakness into a strength! It's inspiring to see you're working on something that used to be a problem for you and really growing.

    Hope you've had a great weekend :)

    Away From The Blue Blog

  7. Great blogpost! I agree that high standards lead to higher motivation, so true :)

    What about following each other? :)

    Caro x

  8. yes comparison is a tricky thing. like trying to do our best...we need to find a balance, push ourselves to our limits and be happy with the achievements. not easy i know..! :D
    xx from italy
    Cate ღ kate/

  9. I think perfectionism is only a problem if it's a problem for you. Plus "perfection" can mean different things to different people. I used to have a lot of trouble with this (particularly when it came to a balance between "making things perfect" and being productive) until I learnt to differentiate between things that needed to be "perfect" and things that didn't. I found I was wasting a lot of time trying to "perfect" things that were unnecessary, so now I just focus on the things that are important, and don't worry so much about the things that don't matter so much (to me anyway).

  10. Joanne, let me start by saying this is such a great post! I am a perfectionist myself-even though I dont admit it that often-and I pay the price by working long hours and cleaning the house every second day. However, I dont think it it a bad thing, quite the opposite, being a perfectionist can lead you to a great pathway if you channel your desire for everything to be perfect down the right career, hobby etc.
    Stop comparing and do whatever you want to do, its your life at the end of the day!


    1. Hi, thank you so much for reading! <3 Totally agree, it's just the comparison that needs to be extracted. Thanks for commenting xx

  11. hi, Joanne
    I think you are so brave for embracing your perfectionism
    it's hard, and I could only imagine being a perfectionist
    so keep fighting the good fight and always remember that you are enough

    The Sweetest Escape

    1. Hi, thanks for reading my blog and for your nice comments! Means a lot x

  12. and I also love your "LGBT in the Eyes of A Young Christian" post
    you put all words I have in my mind in such an eloquent way

  13. I'm a perfectionist, too, and have really struggled with being hard on myself in the past. It's a hard habit to shake off but I'm making progress! Like you said, I still want to work at a high standard but it's important to accept limits as well. Great post.

    1. Alice! I can't believe you're on my blog! (*temporarily fangirls*) And yep, it does take a bit of progress. :) Thanks so much for visiting and reading my post! Xo

  14. I'm a perfectionist as well. Over the years, I've learned to curb my tendencies slightly as the end up leading to a lot of anxiety! x

  15. I just found your blog and I'm so glad I did! This post is all too relatable for me, and although, like you, I know the disadvantages of being a perfection firsthand, I always use it as motivation! And I'm also easing up on myself too :)


    1. Aw thank you! :) Yes it's really an ongoing process of being a little nicer to yourself. Thanks for reading x

  16. I have been reading your posts regularly which is specially for Stop Being a Perfectionist .I need to say that you are doing a fantastic work. Please keep it up the great work.
    How to Stop Being a Perfectionist


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