Stop being a perfectionist and give up control

We all want to be proud of the things we do. There are few things that feel better than doing a job well done and receive the appreciation for it; whether this is in the work environment or in our personal lives. Running a good project or being a good dad can give us appreciation and a fulfilling feeling. With doing something perfect the satisfaction can be even greater.

There is nothing wrong with doing a perfect job. The pursuit for excellence can be a good goal in itself. But what if it’s becoming an obsession? What if being perfect, all the time, is controlling your life? What if good isn’t enough and everything needs to be perfect? What if you are a “control freak”?

The problem with doing everything perfect is that it is a fairy tale, something too good to be true. The need to perform all the time, even when it is not necessary, is causing a continuous stream of stress. Perfectionism can work for some time but at a certain point you pay the price with stress and anxiety as result, maybe worse. Let’s examine why people are perfectionists and what can be done about it.

The cause – Trying to be perfect

People who are perfectionist want to have control all the time. Afraid no one can do the job better than them. But is this really true? Or is it just an excuse? And if it’s an excuse, what is it for?

It’s no surprise that most perfectionists are very insecure people. This insecurity is often the source of their perfectionism. Nothing is good enough and there may be a little voice in their head saying people will not like them if they produce less than perfect results. Afraid as they are they are not living up to the standard. But whose standard is it?

If you are a perfectionist, I invite you to investigate this: Why are you trying to be perfect? Do you think no one can do it better than you? Are you looking for appreciation, afraid people will not like you anymore if you produce less than perfect results? Do you want to control everything? Are you afraid to lose control? What will happen if you do?

The effect – Stress, anxiety and burn out

As long as the perfectionist is in control, or thinks he is in control, the situation is fine. But as soon as things do not go as planned (and they will) the perfectionist needs to re-establish the status quo at any costs.

In its attempt to remain in his comfort zone, the perfectionist needs to control every situation and everyone in his or her life. As soon as the perfectionist makes a mistake, and corrects this, he will attempt to control ever harder: determined not to make that same mistake again. It’s a downward spiral with stress and anxiety, and maybe a depression, as result.

There is no way you can do everything in your life perfect, it’s a myth. If you do there is a good chance you may end up having a burn-out. Did you know that perfectionism ranks high as one of the main causes of a burn-out?

The solution – Give up control

How long do you think you can keep doing everything perfect? Give up control. Realize you can only control the things that are in your circle of influence and even then things and events do not go as planned. There is no way you can control everything and everyone in your life. If you do you’ll end up being miserable, stressed-out with the risk of a serious depression or burn-out.

Stop resisting change, embrace it. Once you accept that change is natural and control is a myth you will be liberated, ready to start a new life. Stop being a perfectionist and give up control.

5 comments… add one
  • Benjamin Nov 10, 2009 @ 20:53

    Thank you, Patrick!

    This is just what I needed.

    I have been struggling with trying to make a podcast perfect… but now, even though it isn’t perfect… it is complete, and available for download or listening on my site. This has been an ongoing struggle for me, because I want everything to be professional, high quality, clear… and ultimately perfect.

    I have spent years conceiving perfect books I could write, models I could share, videos or audios I could broadcast, etc. etc. etc. But the majority of them have remained concepts… I have actually created very few of them.

    The perfect product in my mind doesn’t help anyone!

    The imperfect but powerful product available for download right now could help millions.

    At some point, we have to let go of that very anal aspect that keeps saying “No… not yet… this could be a little bit better”… and once we have actually finished the product/project/etc… we can always go back and improve upon what we created later.

    keep smiling,


  • nothingprofound Nov 12, 2009 @ 15:08

    Perfectionism is a kind of protective shell one secretes around oneself to ward off criticism and ridicule. Instead of being protective it makes you more vulnerable and turns you into a nervous wreck. As you said the perfectionist spends every waking moment trying to control others and his environment against a possible attack. Better to relax, develop a sense of humor about oneself, and learn to laugh at one’s mistakes.

  • Gene Nov 13, 2009 @ 17:43

    Best is the enemy of good enough. I have many times failed to achieve good enough because I wanted it to be perfect.

  • Glowing Face Man Nov 13, 2009 @ 20:50

    It’s kind of like being on a scary roller coaster. You’ll have a better time if you relax and stop putting energy into “fight or flight” responses and just let it happen 🙂

  • Chris Nov 21, 2009 @ 16:49

    perfect is boring. its our idiosyncrasies that make us interesting

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