239. Become a Confirmed Non-Perfectionist

Many of us are plagued with the desperate compulsion to be perfect. We operate in a world where we are taught that anything less than total flawlessness is utter failure. This includes school grades, job assignments, household chores, measuring up to what you assume peers or partner expectations are, and meeting parent’s demands.

I had a friend who was a perfectionist, and it cost him his life. He had made a mistake on his income taxes  and though he corrected it with the IRS, the thought of making such an error plagued him until he was drawn into high anxiety and deep depression and one day hung himself.   

This need to be perfect creates ongoing anxiety and can cause physical symptoms such as stomach pain, headaches and lethargy. The perfection end goal is one that is never clear. The bar is always getting raised and your arms keep reaching, but nothing is there. You don’t know what it feels like to be perfect because you have never been able to reach that level. Emotionally you don’t understand that no one is without faults even though you comprehend this intellectually.

It is not easy to stop being a perfectionist, but it is possible. When I became an adult, my perfectionism in everything I did caused me major trouble, frustration, and anxiety. My job was stressing me out, maintenance of the house was an endless stream of projects, and even writing a  simple letter was a chore.

Around the house, I started to realize that not everything needed to be repaired in a given year. At work, I learned that I did not need to accomplish all I had to do with the same care. But I still struggled until I discovered the “80%” rule: that if I performed most tasks at 80% of perfect, that was often good enough…and some tasks at 50% and some at 90%. I didn’t follow my old 100% perfect except for a very few things.  If you are a perfectionist, try the 80% rule. As of this writing, I am now a confirmed non-perfectionist.  

About Patrick Day

In 2010, I escaped from four long years of deep, dark depression. This blog shares lessons I learned from those years as depicted in my autobiography - How I Escaped from Depression - as well as other insights about depression and anxiety that only come from someone who has gone through it. When you have a heart attack, you become an expert in heart attacks. When you have diabetes, you become an expert in that condition. As such, I am an expert in depression, with a four-year experiential degree and graduate studies in how to live a life going forward that keeps the ever-lurking Depression at a healthy distance.
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