Tale of Humility [A Perfectionist’s Wake Up Call]

In short:

  • They tell you to give it your all for the sake of progress
  • You most likely hold the deepest respect for other perfectionists
  • If perfectionism gone wrong were a physical condition, it’d be suffocation

Head silhouettes.
Photo by AnnaliseArt

Perfectionism is a topic that usually draws out the most opinionated of folk. Mostly because although the majority of the individuals who fall within this category of people have more or less intentionally made it their Northern star, chances are they had wished they could break the compulsion they felt in following it more than once. 

As individuals we have a complex relationship with the concept of perfectionism, but as a species just as much. 


Because we wouldn’t have what we have as a civilization were it not for our thirst for more and better. 

The thing is, however, that we might as well blame what we haven’t yet explored on our perfectionist ways and not be wrong about it. 


They tell you to give it your all for the sake of progress, and not pay attention to perfection. By they, of course, I mean all those who haven’t got a single perfectionist drop of blood running through their veins. Obviously, it’s their place to talk. 

You know them, don’t you? The person that’s always late and expects you to take it as their unique quirk and love them for it, the person who asks you to remind them things because why would they set a reminder when you can set one on their behalf, the person that just wants to join the conversation regardless if they have anything of relevance to say. 

What do they have that your perfectionist self doesn’t? Plenty of undisturbed sleep and lower chances for heart problems, for once. 

Quality vs quantity

Part of us are self-declared quality over quantity kinds of performers and as impressive as it looks on paper those who have integrated this principle in their ways of approaching life in general know for a fact that it comes with both positives and negatives. 

As with anything that isn’t black or white, it can be difficult to figure out where exactly it is that you stand with perfectionism. What’s challenging about it is the lack of precise knowledge in determining where you have to draw the line while trying to get better at the things you put into the world. 

As a perfectionist, you most likely hold the deepest respect for other perfectionists. In fact, being in awe of others’ levels of competence is something that causes you to have such high standards in the first place. You admire them and so you want to be like them.

Relentlessness is not a bad thing to want to mimic.

Forest vs trees

These role models have reached new heights by being persistent in improving a given scenario. This is where both the excitement and the trouble starts for perfectionists – not having it in them to accept things as they are.

It’d definitely be easier. As your teammates are already re-working their daily routines to be able to fit the new project in their schedules, you’re tacitly huffing and puffing about the few management egos you’re going to have to delicately quiz about the incompleteness/ banality of the blueprint you’re supposed to adhere to. Fun times. 

Your teammates don’t even bother with you at this point. In their eyes, you’ve probably earned the reputation of someone who likes to complicate things, someone who is focusing too much of their time and effort on some details that to them don’t make much of a difference, if any observable one. 

You’ve come to terms with it. Both sides. As much as they want to look at the forest, you can’t help but take in the trees. There’s a richness that you can tap into when examining things closely, when you tear apart layers after layers to see the kind of information there is to absorb below the surface. How can being in possession of this kind of knowledge not make any difference?

Like everything in this world, though, going beyond scratching the surface does come at a price. And maybe for the one-dimensional cartoonish teammates I’ve sketched to portray a real-life perfectionist the cost outweighs the benefits. 

Balance is only human

If perfectionism gone wrong were a physical condition, it’d be suffocation. 

It does things to your brain to constantly think that whatever you’ve achieved, it could have been done better. It also does things to your overall body. Having to commit to something you’re not 100% in support of or believe in can cause a serious lack of appetite and sleepless nights in which you’re busy questioning the value you bring into this part of history you live in. Why count sheep when you can develop a Messiah complex?

Perfectionism might be a great instrument in sharpening your skills but it can undeniably become dangerously exhausting. 

You’ve started from creating your own set of standards to abide by so that in good conscience you can work at becoming stronger, but then somehow ended up a weak mental and physical mess. 

You’re out of fuel. You don’t enjoy the process anymore. You long for a good night’s sleep. You tell your concerned loved ones your visible lack of appetite is probably just a vitamin deficiency. It doesn’t work that way, but they buy it and it stops the nagging. 

Then, if you’re lucky enough you might be so ashamed of yourself you’ll start to look to what others are doing. 

Others who sometimes forget. And sometimes are a few minutes late, and don’t always know the right thing to say but try nonetheless. Others who don’t look as if they’re suffocating, so, among all the things they still have to figure out, they at least have that down. Maybe show them a little respect.

Stream of consciousness

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I feel like wake-up calls are the best “aha!” moments in one’s. Whilst it’s not always pleasant to spend so much time stewing about something both consciously & subconsciously, the sense of relief and refreshment that comes with reaching a final conclusion is liberating. It also underlines better the options we can can choose from when it comes to said problem.
    I relate a lot to the people and circumstances described, because I also face similar difficulties at work on a daily basis. Perfectionism and self values vs. pseudo perfectionists and pseudo values is a tough battle that we often can’t win – nor a truce can be obtained because we are clearly not on the same page with these others who don’t “speak our language”.
    If I were to extrapolate I would say that the main issue here is not being a perfectionist, because that trait can be very useful and it’s unique for some, but rather this particularly described environment which was clearly not designed to nourish, elevate and challenge advanced minds. And that’s the problem – a mold shape we don’t fit.

    Liked by 1 person

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