The health dangers of aiming for perfection.

‘Perfectionist’ is a great trait to list on your job resume. Or in a conversation where you are trying to impress someone. It can fetch you an admiring smile. It can get you a high. But watch it. Because living with its ‘burden’ – day in day out – isn’t always a happy experience.

Yes, on paper, perfectionism looks like a super quality to possess if one wants to be more efficient at work, shine in society and generally succeed in life. In reality, though, aiming to be perfect can bring on a load of grief and pain. Taken to its extreme, it can make life miserable.

But first things first. Let’s try to understand what exactly is this thing called ‘perfectionism’. Well, at its core, perfectionism is all about wanting to excel and get better. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. Except that the terms ‘excel’ and ‘better’ are both ‘relative’ concepts. Each of us can have our own views of what excellence is. And the other thing is that neither has no limits.

But that’s just half the story.

Add the fact that we often tend to equate ‘perfection’ with self-worth and social acceptance. Multiply it with the fact that humans are born with certain inherent mental & physical abilities and limitations which cannot be stretched beyond a point, no matter how high the yardstick of success. And it’s easy to see how this quest for being perfect can easily snowball into a toxic mixture of personal standards that are unrealistically high, manic self-criticism, a tendency to punish one’s self at every step, and loss of self worth.

Not surprisingly, anxiety, depression, lifestyle & eating irregularities, bipolar disorders and suicidal tendencies are all medical conditions that have been associated with ‘perfectionism’. Worse, it’s a state-of-mind that can adversely affect the body as well. Diabetes, ulcerative colitis and heart attacks are common occurrences.

Young people, who tend to be more idealistic, are more prone to this condition. From burnout at work to broken relationships to an early death, perfectionism – if unchecked – can ruin a life. And the sad truth is that we are all victims of the ‘disease’ called perfectionism – some more, some less.

So is there a way to deal with the monster? Thankfully, the answer is yes.

From developing self admiration to challenging irrational expectations to creating an environment of sensitivity & support to doing yoga & exercise to developing engaging side-hobbies and pursuits (that can take your mind off the boil) can all bring back balance.

They can help us realize that the magic of life lies not in the destination, but in the journey. And inspire us to live each moment healthy, happy and to the fullest.

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