Five Reasons Why Perfectionism is a Dream Killer

Have you ever wanted to be perfect?  I'm pretty sure most of us would say "no" because (in unison) “nobody’s perfect.”  So why is perfectionism so idealized in our culture? (Sigh) How good it must feel to do everything perfectly. Have the perfect figure. Wear the perfect clothes. And achieve every goal we set out to accomplish. At times we wear our perfectionistic tendencies like a badge of honor. We say we have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) just to show how perfectionistic and in control we are. But OCD is actually the antithesis of control, and in fact means our need for control is waaay out of control. While the pursuit of perfection can help propel us forward towards our goals, perfectionism as a personality trait means we are trapped in the idea that we must only have or be the best, and any slight mistake or misstep is an indication of failure. Counter to what many believe, perfectionism is driven by fear and maintained by anxiety and worry.

When I think of perfectionism, I’m always reminded of Darth Vador. It's a weird comparison I know, but when you live in a house with all boys who love Star Wars, it’s bound to have some strange effect. Darth Vador’s fear of losing all he had, actually caused him to lose all he had. This is what perfectionism is like. When we fear not being perfect enough to realize our dreams, it is that fear which drives us away from our dreams. Here's five reasons why perfectionism is a dream killer.


1. It keeps us stuck.

You know that feeling when you make a mistake, or mess up and say something silly, and can’t seem to get past it. You try to move on but somehow keep coming back to that moment and wonder “Why didn’t I just…” or “Only if I…” This is called “stuck.” Our perfectionistic tendencies is what hold us hostage in these moments. It is also counterproductive, and can make us so miserable that we fail to focus on the present and make plans that will get us closer to our dreams (believe me, I know). It's important that we allow ourselves to make mistakes, all the while knowing that our mistakes don’t define us. In fact, they add to our life experience and can make us wiser and more informed than we would have been had we not messed up.

2. It stops us from learning

When we are set on being perfect, there is no room to learn and grow. There is only success or failure and nothing in between.  Consequently, no new skills are developed because we are too afraid of making mistakes. No learning, no growth, no new skills= no new steps towards our dreams. It’s really that simple.

3. We try to bypass the process.

Ahhhh, the process. Who wants to go through the struggles and challenges of the process anyway? The problem is, in order to make our dreams a reality, we must experience struggles because it is what authenticates us, and makes our accomplishment true to who we are. Let’s say I want to be a business owner. Until I take steps to start my business, it’s just a lofty ideal that seems separate and far away from me. But once I take action, being a business owner becomes part of who I am. And my ability to overcome the inevitable challenges helps to shape me and my dream.

4. It dulls us.

My favorite line from a Twilight Zone episode (and I’m paraphrasing) is if everyone is beautiful, no one is. Isn’t that so true? If everyone looked and behaved the same, it would certainly be dull. That’s because our unique qualities and quirks, that “thing” that causes us to stand out is what makes us beautiful. If we were all in fact perfect, what would that mean? That we never made a mistake? That we never did anything differently from anyone else? I don’t even know what that would look like, and quite frankly it sounds pretty freaky. Our faults and quirks are what define us, and help to mold our dreams in such a way that make them unique to us. We may both desire to own  similar businesses, but if we are true to ourselves, your dream business and mine will certainly be different.  And who wants their business to be exactly like someone else's anyway?  Our idiosyncrasies make us and our dreams stand out from the crowd.

5. We place ourselves at risk for anxiety disorders.

I’ve said in a previous post that we may be predisposed to a certain disorder based upon our genetic make-up, our psychological functioning, and our environment. So while the desire to be perfect may not be a disorder per se, it can develop into an anxiety disorder if it isn't addressed. The constant barrage of needing to be perfect, being fearful of failure, and feeling anxious to try new things is taxing, and saps the energy we need to fulfill our dreams. We must be  kind to ourselves with uplifting and inspiring words, even when it feels counter intuitive to do so, because this is what propels us forward towards our dreams.♥

You may have more reasons why perfectionism is a dream killer. Feel free to share them. And if perfectionism and anxiety have a hold on you, know that it doesn’t have to. It may be helpful to seek help from a professional or a trusted friend who can help you overcome the confines of perfectionism. It may be difficult at first to let the need to be perfect go, but it'll be so freeing once you do.☺

{image by Sarah Seung}