Comment: On Perfection

per·fec·tion·ism n.

  1. A propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards.

Never trust a self-professed perfectionist. There are two reasons for this:

1) People who identify themselves as perfectionists usually aren’t perfectionists, but insecure people with naive aspirations of greatness.

2) True perfectionism is a mental illness, not a quality worth admitting to.

Essentially, perfectionism is a neurosis which, contrary to common understanding of the term, imposes set boundaries on accomplishment. This may seem at odds with our popular understanding of it. Perfectionism, as commonly seen, is an aim towards a standard of accomplishment which is exceptionally high. It is for this badge of honour that the insecure wrap themselves in this garment. I would argue however that the perfectionist mindset is so captained by the end result (“perfection”) that the person under this condition is actually unable to see other possibilities.

Perfectionism is thus the inability to see beyond a single result. To the afflicted, this single result is everything, but in actuality it is a foolish construct; it denies the natural or realistic ebb and flow of performance and quality.There are always going to be greater and lesser works in a person’s output.

A profound example was illustrated in “Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland (ISBN: 0961454733). A pottery teacher splits his class into two groups; one group is to focus on making one exceptional, perfect object for the end of the course. The other group is to focus on creating a series of objects. At the end of the course, the latter class ended up with the more impressive end result. Why? Because their output was steady; even though their first examples were weak (as would be expected), with each successive piece of pottery there was steady improvement to the extent where they often surpassed those classmates in the other group whose itinerary it was to create “perfection”.

When someone says something is perfect (in all seriousness), they deny the flexibility and infinite variables that surround us. The fact is, nothing is perfect – if it were, there wouldn’t be much point in carrying on, would there?


One Reply to “Comment: On Perfection”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.