Death By Perfection

We striI'd rather have my empitaphve for perfection. 

The perfect job, the perfect body, the perfect house, perfect health, perfect children, a perfect result in our endeavors – We like perfection. It is our goal and mission to be in a flawless condition and have everything in place. Our time and energy is spent on results that the world will see as meeting the highest standard.

The next promotion is sought and the nicer things are purchased for our bigger house in the perfect neighborhood. We change our diets and workout routines so that we can look like the airbrushed model on the front of our favorite “better living” magazine. Kids and parents alike run at a dizzying pace as more and more activities are crammed into each day so that 18 years after they are born, we can help our children have the perfect college application so they can get into just the right school so they can have the perfect start into adulthood. Simply being proficient at our jobs, our interests and our hobbies, becoming the expert is now what we desire. We are driven by perfection.

But, we are also dying by it.

Surely death by perfection is not one that you would see in any medical chart or record. However, perfection is something that can cause us to encounter death in different ways. Sometimes it is a slow process that gradually causes demise, or sometimes it can be quick. The death can happen metaphorically as we miss out on relationships or opportunity because of our determination. It can also happen physically as we push ourselves relentlessly to the point of being obsessed, over stressed and exhausted to the point that our bodies give out.

Regardless, we need to be aware that perfection is a health hazard. So how does death by perfection happen?

Death by perfection happens to us personally. When we are driven by the goal of perfection in whatever it is we do, our hope and fulfillment is based solely in the end result. We move along towards the goal, but we forget to enjoy what is happening around us as we are reaching it. We fail to see the other joys that can come from happy accidents or the adventure from veering off course. The moments of life become just another un-noticed grain of sand in the hourglass of existence. Our determination for perfection suffocates any thing else that tries to reside in us. We miss out on so much that life has to offer. We forget to live the journey – and that is the same as dying.

Death by our perfection also happens to those around us. When we are stuck in the idea of perfection, we often project that expectation onto others around us. We expect them to be a part of our own perfect world and plan. They become a piece or our system, and when they are not working the way we think they should be, we know it and so do they. As a result, relationships die out and the others around us feel marginalized in our worlds and feel isolated and judged by us; a social death.

What can we do about it? 

To combat the health crisis of perfection, the best thing we can do is give our perfect effort instead of focusing on a perfect result. Focusing of the effort helps us to make the most of the journey to our goal. Instead of seeing just the pin on the map, we can enjoy each of the twists, turns, topography and sights that are before us. It opens our hearts and our minds to all the things, all the people and all the experience that we will encounter along the way to our destinations. It brings fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment in each step – not just when we have reached the apex. When we focus on the effort the joy in our journey can be recognized by ourselves and by those around us. It allows us to actually live our journey instead of dying along the way.

There is one more thought to keep in mind. The only perfect thing that science has recognized is something that can live on and on and on. It has no time clock that tells it when it is supposed to turn off. It continues on without ailment of its own if it is allowed to. It multiplies, grows and dominates. The only perfect thing that science can identify is a cancer cell. Cancer can kill us. Perfection given the wrong place in our life is a cancer.

On my own epitaph, I would rather have it read “She Lived Life” not that she “Perfected Life”. How about you? Do you have expectations of perfection in your life? Do they have a healthy place in your life?

2 thoughts on “Death By Perfection

  1. I like the idea of perfect effort and making the most of the journey. The desire to be perfect has often led to ‘perfection paralysis’ which in no way supports our goals. Very strong points in your post.

    1. I completely agree! The need to be perfect is such a lie that we tell ourselves. We get so caught up in thinking that the world is putting it’s energy into judging us by every little thing (which is actually very self centered thinking). It stops us in our tracks.

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