Many people talk about perfection as a positive thing that creates positive outcomes. Some professions, such as some forms of medicine or engineering, talk about perfection as an important component in their fields.

What is interesting is that, in our personal lives, when we strive for perfection we are guaranteed to fail. This seems like a contradiction because many of us believe and attempt to live our lives in such a way as to look like the perfect family. When families attempt to live in perfection, they might look good on the outside but be experiencing many unresolved feelings on the inside. They may also look like a great family on the outside and demonstrate different unhealthy patterns, addictions, and/or abuse behind closed doors.

When we pretend to be perfect, emotional tension builds within that eventually can create many problems. The emotional tension is related to the imperfections life offers that continually have us fail in anything we attempt to be perfect in.

We learn to strive for perfection at a young age in attempts to please our parents and other authority figures in our life. As children, the first time we do something that gets positive attention from our parents or adult figures, we attempt to do it again to get more attention. What typically happens is that the parents initially recognize children for their accomplishment. As time continues, less recognition is given for the behavior because it is expected. To receive more positive attention, children recognize they will need to do more or do something even better to get the attention they desire.

This pattern of attempting to do better or more to get the recognition we desire from our parents creates the pattern of perfection. As time goes on, children will continue to do more and more to get that crumb of attention they desire. Eventually they receive no more attention, yet the pattern of anticipation that some form of positive recognition will be given creates the need to continue to do more and be even better. With attempts to continue improving being made with little or no recognition, anxiety from the lack of success and the tension of the perfection increases.

When the need to be perfect becomes great, obsessiveness and compulsiveness might increase. The obsessiveness might be associated with something like cleaning the house twice a day or making sure that everything in the closet is organized and hung with a certain amount of space between each garment. A compulsive behavior associated with perfection might be a person who continually is organizing things or picking things up.

While perfectionism can have some positive qualities, it can also have negative qualities. One common drawback is having no time for fun or life because the perfectionistic patterns consume too much time and create an emotional heaviness within ones self and in relationships.

To reduce the anxiety and tension from the need for perfection, it may help to learn to recognize appropriate limits that can be acceptable. When posed with the question of what an acceptable limit might be, a perfectionistic person might say anything less than 110% is unacceptable. This response already places the person at a disadvantage, since no one can give more than 100% and most people cannot consistently give 100% to anything.

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