3 minute read
Let’s face the truth: there are no perfect people, and even if there were any, we would hate their guts. Do you feel irritated when someone constantly tries to seem perfect?
Perfectionism related to appearance, knowledge, abilities, etc. is often off-putting. Nevertheless, envy is not the reason why we find it alienating.
In fact, we know that when someone or something seems too good to be true… it probably is; and if someone constantly tries to expose an impeccable image from the outside, we are afraid that inside there must be something truly rotten.
We realize that perfection is unnatural and in the rare cases when we believe that someone or something is perfect, we are either being manipulated or we deceive ourselves.
This is actually a good thing. Especially when you finally realize that there is no such thing as a job perfectly done. Once we free ourselves from this illusion, we can leave it to the world to decide if our little cracks are deal-breakers or not in every specific situation (job, relationship, etc.).
Take for example the Pratfall effect – it was discovered by the social psychologist Elliot Aronson in 1966 at the University of Minnesota where he was conducting an experiment on likability. The psychologist found out that people sympathize most with competent individuals who sometimes make mistakes, admit those mistakes, and move on. For the purpose of the experiment, Aronson measured the likability of two people who competed in a game. One of them wasn’t very competent and answered about 30% of the questions right; the other one, responded correctly to 92% of the questions. Needless to say, people sympathized more with the more competent figure, but not really that much more. What happens when the competent person (as part of the experiment) spills his cup of coffee, though? People LOVE him! His likability goes trough the roof.
In my opinion, this happens because it is easier for us to identify with the winner when he/she has some flaws. We recognize him/her as one of us because we all have these Pratfall moments.
Competence is indeed the base of success. Without it, we wouldn’t go very far, but once we establish our skills, any small mistake that we make makes us look more human, more likable, and more real. Trust me, all our little flaws work for us, once we prove that we are capable of coping with some job, and if we don’t try to hide them, they will be accepted with a smile. We don’t have to be flawless even in the tasks that we do really well. If we are open to accepting some creative criticism and if we are ready to admit our mistakes, it will make us invincible.
One of my favorite authors – Brené Brown, has written extensively on the topic of perfectionism and its impact on our lives. In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection,” she describes perfectionism as a “self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
Brown argues that perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. Rather, it is a fear-based behavior that is driven by the belief that our worth is based on our accomplishments and the approval of others. She suggests that perfectionism can lead to a range of negative outcomes, including shame, anxiety, depression, and even physical health problems.
To counteract the negative impact of perfectionism, Brown suggests cultivating a sense of self-worth that is based on who we are, not what we do. This involves practicing self-compassion, embracing vulnerability, and learning to accept ourselves, our flaws, and all. She also encourages us to shift our focus from seeking approval from others to finding fulfillment and joy in our own lives, independent of external validation. Brown’s work on perfectionism highlights the importance of embracing imperfection as an essential part of the human experience and learning to cultivate self-acceptance and self-love.
In my personal experience, I wouldn’t even think of publishing a text without running the spell-check twice. Due to my mild dyslexia, it is impossible for me to write without spelling mistakes, and punctuation is usually a mystery for me, as are other grammar rules. It is a miracle that I was able to learn a second language; yet, I learned a third language too and defended a Ph.D. dissertation in it. Now I write a blog in 3 languages with the help of two spell-check programs and the redaction of my friend and colleague Carolina Dias. I still struggle with orthography but I can’t let it ruin my dreams.
I wouldn’t have become a writer if I were afraid to practice all the languages I speak. I wouldn’t have gotten my degree in psychoanalysis if I had expected to understand everything there is to know about the human mind in the first place. It is such a broad subject! Nobody knows everything, even in the sphere in which one specializes. Just keep doing what you do well and learn more and more from your experience. You can criticize yourself, but you are not allowed to give up!
Once we accept the fact that we can’t be perfect, and then we will have the freedom to DO things. Trust me, people who like you will like your pratfalls too, and maybe they will reach out to help if they can. Don’t reject their help.