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Perfectionism is a Disease

Airport work by painterPerfectionism is a culturally accepted and even desired ideal. We want our children to be perfectly adjusted. We wish our bodies were perfectly shaped. We want to find the ideal soul mate. We expect our athletes in the Olympics to perform perfectly. We want our minds to be absolutely still – at least when we so chose.

There is very little room for failure in our goal-driven society.

And while there is nothing wrong with trying to give the best we can, wanting to be perfect is an endeavor bound to fail.

In fact, it lies at the heart of much of the anxiety and depression we encounter every day.

Children and teenagers crack under the exaggerated expectations of overly ambitious parents who want to force them to fulfill their own un-lived dreams.

Marriages fall apart under the strain of romantic ideals and ever increasing pressures.

Professionals, athletes, soldiers and spouses do their best to live up to what others have put upon them every day, and inevitably have to concede their limitations.

One example is the recently uncovered scandal over Jonah Lehrer, a young and brilliant science writer who was outed for making up quotes for his highly readable articles.

Lehrer broke into the writing profession at 26, published a bestseller two years later, and was quickly seen as a wunderkind and boy genius.

The media machinery of initial boundless admiration which later turned into scorn and schadenfreude made a loser out of this talented young man.

We can observe the cycle of high expectations leading to failure and shame practically every day in the media. Actors and musicians fallen from grace; politicians making unrealistic promises and quickly being ridiculed for i;t and companies promising never ending beauty and health that doesn’t happen (but then who somehow avoid taking the blame).

We all like a winner and a star. Alas, no one can live up to never ending success and glory. What goes up, must come down. What turns out flawlessly the first time around will inevitably lose out another time.

It’s time to accept that we are human. Nobody is perfect. It would spare us a lot of pain.


photo credit: puffmind

Perfectionism is a Disease

Gerti Schoen, MA, LP

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APA Reference
Schoen, G. (2012). Perfectionism is a Disease. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 22, 2018, from


Last updated: 5 Aug 2012
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Aug 2012
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