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November 21, 2011 / mike54martin

Perfectionism: Not an Easy Road to Travel

As parents and teachers we always encourage our children to do their best and strive for perfection. But we have to be careful not to cross the line between asking them to try their best and creating a situation where they think that they have to be perfect. The impact could be profound and not only influence their confidence and self esteem as students but carry on with them throughout their lives.

If they develop a pattern of perfectionism it may rob them of the simple pleasures of working hard and enjoying what they do achieve. It also means that no matter how much success they achieve, they will never really be able to enjoy it unless they are absolutely perfect. The simple truth is that perfectionist children turn into perfectionist adults and this could lead to many problems further down the road.

Psychologists and psychiatrists who have studied perfectionism have found that many turn into workaholics which may be good for employers but create many difficulties for the workers themselves, especially in regards to their physical and mental health. Another trait they have observed is procrastinating or delaying doing certain things unless the perfectionist thinks that they can complete the task to perfection. They also become risk adverse because they are afraid of making a mistake. All of these factors in turn lead to unhealthy adults and workers who have high levels of anxiety and low esteem.

This is not the world that we would like our children to live in. There are enough pressures in today’s society without the added burden of having to be perfect. As Winston Churchill once said “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” So by all means encourage your children to work hard, but also teach them that as long as they do their best, they have a right to celebrate every piece of success that they earn. That way they can not only enjoy their achievements but also feel free to try new things and even make the occasional mistake.

Perfectionism really is a tough road to follow. We can make it easier on our children and ourselves by just asking that they do their best.

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of “Change the Things You Can” (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit:


Leave a Comment
  1. Doreen Pendgracs / Nov 21 2011 4:11 am

    Hi Mike: My father was a perfectionist. I’m glad I didn’t inherit that trait from him as I think he limited his ability to just go with the flow! He was too busy worrying about holding up his high standards.

    I like to enjoy each day as though it might be my last, and if that means not getting certain things done, or perhaps not doing them quite well as I might have liked … so be it. Enjoy the moment!

  2. Catarina / Nov 22 2011 10:43 am

    To expect ourselves to be perfect simply isn’t possible. Nobody or nothing is, or have ever been, perfect. So we just have to accept reality. If not, we ruin ourselves.

  3. Adeline Yuboco / Nov 25 2011 2:38 am

    I admit, for a time, I consider myself to be a perfectionist. But over time, I noticed that my desire for everything to become perfect caused me to also become demanding, over-critical, and controlling so much that it affected my relationship with others. I have to agree with Catarina. It would be great if things are perfect. But the reality is, that there will always be flaws and errors and shortcomings. Embracing these with the good is the best way, I believe, to enjoy our lives. It may not be perfect, but it’s a great close second.

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