Perfectionism carries a high price in the ways we treat those closest to us and ourselves. As Kathy Cordova, author of Let Go, Let Miracles Happen, notes: “Perfectionism makes the strong tyrants and the weak passive. It either drives you to bully yourself and others with your demands, or to retreat to your comfort zone, afraid of taking the risk of failure.” I used to judge every word and gesture my husband made in public and call him on the carpet as soon as we were alone. Needless to say, he felt attacked and therefore retreated, which did little for feelings of togetherness.
But the highest cost, I believe, is that perfection keeps us from growing in wisdom. We become rigid, inflexible, and judgmental. Any mistake is unacceptable, so we either punish ourselves or pretend it never happened. Either way, we don’t learn from our errors and are therefore condemned to repeat them.
In a way, we perfectionists have got it backward. We can’t be satisfied with anything less than a “ten,” but when we do fall short our harsh response deprives us of knowledge that would actually help us improve. But we can turn that around with a new attitude. I’ll show you how next time.