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Author: Peyton DeMaio

The Perfectionist’s Paradox: The Flaws of Being Flawless

Illustration by Marcello Burdis

The Perfectionist’s Paradox: The Flaws of Being Flawless

By Peyton DeMaio

The Perfectionist Problem

Perfectionism, although it can help in the short term for excelling at certain tasks, can be highly damaging throughout a person’s life. It not only creates cognitive dissonance when one falls short of the ambitious goals they’ve set, but it also establishes a harmful cycle of never feeling good enough, which can actually hinder their performance in areas they care about.

Consider someone aiming to be the best parent and employee simultaneously. They strive to spend quality time with their kids, only to realize they haven’t dedicated enough time to advance their careers. Conversely, if they focus extensively on work to secure a promotion or accomplish a significant project, you’d expect them to be happy. However, the moment they realize they missed a soccer practice or couldn’t cook a homemade meal for their kids, they label themselves as neglectful parents.

Is this a fulfilling way to live? Not really. Unfortunately, we’ve witnessed high-achieving individuals falling into this mindset repeatedly. The core belief that they must excel in everything takes a toll on their confidence, exhausts them, and eventually leads to burnout.

So, how can one break free from this cycle?

How to stop being a perfectionist

Breaking free from the perfectionist feedback cycle begins with a significant and challenging admission.

You won’t excel at everything, and guess what? It’s perfectly fine to struggle with some things. These truths can be tough for many to accept. You might wonder, “If I’m bound to be less skilled at certain things, why bother trying? Shouldn’t I always aim to get better?”

Absolutely, the desire for improvement is valid. It’s crucial to seek progress. However, it doesn’t mean we should berate ourselves for not achieving perfection. Instead of viewing life as a competition to win, it’s more beneficial to see it as a thrilling journey filled with opportunities for growth.

Moreover, do you truly need to be the best at everything to find happiness? Or is it more likely that having one aspect solidly in place contributes to making everything else more meaningful?

Focusing on One Thing

Maybe your happiest moments are when you’re with your kids. If that’s the case, being an exceptional parent—putting family first and adjusting work priorities—might actually enhance your performance at work. Starting the week with a fulfilling weekend with your kids can leave you more rejuvenated at the office, leading to improved job performance.

Similarly, if you’re a creative individual who finds solace in making art, completing a painting or song before spending time with your children might transform you into a more caring and loving parent.

See the pattern?

Here’s the distinction: perfectionists attempt to juggle everything. On the other hand, those who accomplish things focus on one significant aspect at a time. Rather than spreading themselves thin with a myriad of tasks, concentrating on one important thing enables them to excel in multiple areas.

And who knows? Your one thing could be as simple as ensuring you get enough sleep. For me, it was crucial: a full night’s rest boosts my ability to handle much more than when I’m disoriented, tired, and groggy.

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