expect nothing less than an A+ on every test
avoid new challenges for fear that you will fail
view all criticism as an assault on your character
. . . , then the answer to the question above might be yes. But does it really matter?
What’s wrong with perfectionism?
There’s nothing wrong with trying to do your best. However, “there’s a big difference between the healthy pursuit of excellence and the unhealthy striving for an impossible ideal,” says the book Perfectionism—What’s Bad About Being Too Good? It adds: “Perfectionism can be a heavy burden because, let’s face it, nobody’s perfect.”
The Bible agrees. It states: “There is no righteous man on earth who always does good.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) Because you’re imperfect, at times your performance will be less than spectacular.
Do you find that hard to accept? If so, consider four ways that perfectionism can affect you—and not for the better.
How you view yourself. Perfectionists set unreasonably high standards for themselves—a setup for disappointment. “Realistically, we aren’t going to be great at everything, and if we keep putting ourselves down for not being perfect, we’ll end up with no confidence. That can be depressing.”—Alicia.
How you view helpful advice. Perfectionists tend to view constructive criticism as character assassination. “When I receive correction, I feel horrible,” says a young man named Jeremy. He adds, “Being a perfectionist keeps you from acknowledging your limitations and accepting needed help.”
How you view others. Perfectionists are often critical of others, and it’s easy to see why. “When you expect perfection of yourself, you hold everyone else to the same standard,” says 18-year-old Anna. “When people fail to meet that standard, you find yourself constantly disappointed in them.”
How others view you. If you have unreasonably high expectations of others, don’t be surprised if people start to avoid you! “Having to live up to the impossible standards of a perfectionist is exhausting,” says a young adult named Beth. “No one wants to be around someone like that!”
Is there a better way?
The Bible says: “Let your reasonableness become known.” (Philippians 4:5) Reasonable people are balanced in what they expect of themselves and in what they expect of others.
“There’s already enough pressure from outside influences. Why add unnecessary pressure by being a perfectionist? That’s way too much to handle!”—Nyla.
The Bible says: “Walk in modesty with your God!” (Micah 6:8) Modest people recognize their limitations. They don’t take on more than they can handle; nor do they spend more time on a task than they can afford.
“If I want to feel that I am handling my responsibilities well, I can only take on a reasonable amount. I can only do so much.”—Hailey.
The Bible says: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) So the remedy for perfectionism isn’t laziness; it’s industriousness, but blended with the qualities mentioned above—reasonableness and modesty.
“I try to do my work in the best way possible, and I give it my all. I realize that it will never be perfect, but I’m happy knowing I gave it my best.”—Joshua.