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In the movie The Rock, Sean Connery says to Nicholas Cage "Your best? Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen." There are those who think that perfection can be attained. Although living-up to your highest ideals may put you in a constant state of stress, it might mean you are more conscientious, principled, and able to accomplish much more than you would have otherwise. Psychologists consider it unhealthy, irrational, and even a personality disorder. (Granted, these are the same people who want to diagnose anger as a mental illness.) What's wrong with having such extraordinarily high standards for yourself? Shouldn't we always strive to do the highest quality job? Isn't there merit in the adage "either do a job right or don't do it at all?" What's the difference between someone who does their best and someone who is a perfectionist? How do you know when something is "good enough?" Do you have any of the characteristics of a perfectionist?


What is a "perfectionist?" A perfectionist is someone with mistaken thinking. Perfectionism doesn't refer to a quest for excellence, or a demand (placed on self or others) to get the best job done possible. Perfectionism refers to a neurotic fear, an unhealthy functioning of one's mind that results in unnecessary and painful emotions.

The psychological root of perfectionism is an irrational fear of error. To understand the error of perfectionism, you first have to understand what mistakes in thinking cause one to be afraid of error in the first place. Here they are:

(1) "I will look badly in front of others..."

(2) "An error is a delay and delays are always bad..."

(3) "The end result is ruined by any disruption along the way..."

(4) "Mistakes and problems have the same importance -- or even more importance -- than success and accomplishments..."

(5) "I should have known better..."

The overriding emotion of an irrational perfectionist is a terror of "ruining" everything. A perfectionist feels that if he makes one mistake along the way, everything else will be wiped out. Some perfectionists are control freaks and even brutal dictators. Many others are well-meaning, or at least start out that way. They're simply trying to be objective and competent. While they rationally assume, "There's a right and a wrong, a correct and incorrect way of doing things," they make an evaluation about this fact and conclude, "It's always a catastrophe to be wrong." The proper and rational response to this is, "The vast majority of mistakes are not going to kill you. If you're still alive and alert enough to be aware of your mistake, then you're able to dust yourself off, internalize the new knowledge obtained from your error, and move on." The perfectionist cannot or will not do this. He's hostage to his false belief that because he has made an error (or somebody else has), all is ruined.

Perfectionism and the quest for excellence are not the same thing. People who achieve excellence and develop competence along the way eschew an irrational desire for infallibility. Instead, they favor of life as a place where ever-increasing knowledge leads to never-ending improvements.

Perfectionism vs.Happiness


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Jan 17, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=436

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