‘I’m a perfectionist.’ What do we actually mean when we use this phrase? And should we really be using it?
I confess: more than once, I’ve answered the question “What is your greatest weakness?” with “I’m a perfectionist” during a job interview. I was not even trying to turn something negative into something positive (most recruiters also see right through this).
Of course, I understood that saying ‘I am a perfectionist’ can mean you try to get the best out of yourself (in a healthy way) — we need to have a drive to be successful. Yet I am also aware that being a perfectionist can lead to serious problems in certain situations, and even endanger your physical health.
I don’t just know this because of my own experiences, but I’ve also seen other young women literally collapsing under the pressure of trying to be the perfect colleague, student, lover, friend, daughter, have the best body, and the list goes on.
Young, intelligent women become exhausted and physically ill trying to reach these standards of perfection. Many times they don’t ask for help because they’re afraid of prejudices and the inevitable “toughen up” comments to be thrown their way.
We need to eliminate the taboo around people struggling with a very real demand for perfection. There are studies that say constantly striving for perfection can cause heart diseases and raise the risk of premature death.
We also need to acknowledge that considering yourself a “perfectionist” is entirely relative. According to the dictionary a perfectionist is “a person who wants everything to be perfect and demands the highest standards possible.” So, what is perfect?
Imperfection can be perfect. “Nothing is perfect.” My perfect might differ from your perfect.
And what is the highest standard? Who decides that? What if I question the high standard?
Am I a perfectionist if I spend hours on 4 sentences or just passionate? Or insecure? And what if I finish a story within 5 minutes and am happy with it? Does that mean I am not a perfectionist?
I don’t know, because it’s truly all relative.
So, I decided I don’t want to consider myself a perfectionist until I have the answers.
Sure, I might never find them, and that is perfectly fine.