The idea of perfectionism is fairly easy to understand; striving to do everything in a way which is perfect, flawless, without error. And I’m sure we all know people who are perfectionists, for whom second-best simply will not do. It all seems harmless enough and, is there anything wrong with wanting everything to be just right? Research published in 2017, carried out by Thomas Curren and Andrew P. Hill, shows that from 1989 to 2016 there was a significant increase in self-orientated, socially prescribed and other-orientated perfectionism. In other words, we are demanding more of ourselves, peer pressure demands more of us, and factors external to us are also expecting more. Again, is there anything wrong with wanting ever better?
The answer, it would seem, is that there is a lot wrong with this perpetually increasing push for perfection. There is a year-on-year increase in the number of people experiencing and reporting negative mental health issues, something which appears to be disproportionately affecting young people, although the rest of us are far from immune. Advertising, the media, social media; all seem to be promoting an increasingly glossy view of the world to which many of use simply cannot aspire. This surely has to take its toll, which the work of Curren and Hill confirms.
It is time to stop. Time to reflect. Time to work out who we really want to be. And all we really need to ask, no, demand, is for each of us to be the very best version of ourselves. Nothing more and nothing less. I know I can do that. And you know that you can too, don’t you?