Five years ago, as I became acutely aware of how self-destructive my perfectionism had become, I developed a strong desire to understand why I had allowed this to manifest in my life. How did this all start? Where did I learn this perfectionist behaviour? Well, here is my theory, and there is a little history lesson involved.
Starting in the 1760s, the world’s population changed forever with the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Its socioeconomic and cultural overhaul created a great deal of innovation and improvement, but it also conceived and capitalized on the idea of bigger is better.
Fast forward 260 years, and we find ourselves embodying this very perception that bigger (not to mention faster, stronger, newer, richer, prettier) is better. This mentality has been slowly ingrained in the very fabric of society, its pattern woven by the mass media, social media, big business, educational institutions and even our own families, all touting the importance of performance, winning, wealth, success, and social status.
This in turn has created an environment, which has nurtured in us the pursuit of unrealistic, unattainable perfection through materialistic means, and unfortunately the consequences that come with it. Fear is one of these consequences, which unfolds into even greater magnitudes. One simply needs to look at these fear-based modern sayings to gain insight into just how much our modern society is intertwined with perfectionism:
- FOMO (fear of missing out)
- FOBO (fear of better options)
- Keeping up with the Joneses – or Kardashians – depending on your generation (fear of socioeconomic or cultural inferiority)
Being trapped in the perfectionist loop fed my fears of how others perceived me, creating self-doubt, lack of confidence, bouts of depression, and debilitating insomnia, while shooting my anxiety through the roof. Until one day, I finally burnt out.
I was a shell of my former self. It took me several years to recover with lots of introspection and personal growth, but I can now reflect on my experience and clearly see that being a perfectionist had always made me live as a shell of my true self.
What do we actually get out of this pursuit of perfection? There is nothing wrong with wanting abundance, but the question is – what kind? Will the bigger house, faster car, newer phone, better grades, top school, higher paying job prove to us our life’s worth? Or are all of these desires just pieces of an empty shell that we build up as a way of filling the voids created by our fears and failures?
To quote one of my favourite John Lennon song lyrics:
Last night the wife said
Oh boy, when you're dead
You don't take nothing with you but your soul –
This profound lyric has often made me think about what is truly important in life. So, I leave you with this question to ponder: In this world where we constantly repeat the mantra of bigger is better, has the pursuit of perfection made your soul bigger and better?
Bohdanna Diduch – The Awakened Perfectionist
Author: Bohdanna Diduch | Publisher: Kosha Life