The Perfectionist’s Dilemma: Unraveling the Myth of Attainable Perfection | by Mr. Self Acceptance | Mar, 2024

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“Let go of perfectionism,” they say. “Stop being a perfectionist.” Okay, but how? Does anyone know? Has anyone been able to do that or are we all just repeating what we heard from someone else, thinking it’s a good idea?

I know a thing or two about perfectionism, being a lifelong perfectionist myself. I didn’t know I was one until my grade 6 teacher rebuked me for it in front of the class after I’d corrected her spelling mistake. I thought I was helping but everyone laughed at me which was confusing. Up until then I’d thought the point of school was to learn. Not so, it would seem.

I liked learning though, so I continued to do so. I just began keeping what I learned — through trial & error experimentation — to myself because I didn’t want to rock anyone’s boat.

So then is “perfectionist” simply what we call people when they put in more effort than we would? When they have higher standards than we do? That’s part of it but not the whole story because she did have a point.

I have always been hard on myself. Too hard if I’m honest. But I did have a reason for doing so, so let’s explore the validity of that reason. Is it possible to be perfect? To attain perfection? Well, I think it depends on what your definition of perfection is.

When I was harder on myself than I am now, my definition of perfection involved getting everything right. Being correct all the time in the eyes of others. Now, having given it a red hot go, I would say that that is unattainable, primarily because we are often wrong about things that we think we’re right about. And secondarily because, with many things, we can’t really know if they are correct or not.

Life is all about making assumptions and then testing them to see if they hold true, and even if they do, that still doesn’t mean they are correct because long-term results can differ from the short term. Plus, there are many factors that can come into play to alter your results under different circumstances, such as cultural differences, individual differences, and some things change over time. So from that perspective, you simply won’t get everything correct all the time and it’s no use trying. It doesn’t make sense to have that as a goal.

But perhaps you don’t need to be correct all the time to live a perfect life. So what would a perfect life entail? Now that, my friends, is a question to ask yourselves. Here’s how I would respond at this point in time, which could change.

The past is fixed. It cannot change. So in order to live a perfect life, one must accept the past as perfect, as it is. This can be achieved with two arguments.

  1. Our mistakes and failures teach us and shape us. They are necessary for learning.
  2. We never really know if something is ultimately “good” or “bad,” and besides, its goodness or badness can change depending on the perspective one looks at it from.

So, with those arguments in place, it doesn’t make sense to judge the past unless you are all-seeing and all-knowing, which none of us are. This doesn’t prove that our past is perfect. That cannot be proven, for reasons given above. But it does prove that we do not know that the past is imperfect and so it doesn’t make sense to think that it is. We can simply withhold our judgement — and really that’s the only logical thing to do — which creates a certain perfection in the sense that there is no problem there for us to solve.

So, what would a perfect life entail? It would be a life where there are no problems for us to resolve. But where would we find that? We won’t find it by looking to the future because we can’t know what the future will bring. So that leaves the present moment. Can a perfect life be attained in the present moment?

I believe so, yes. One can reach a state where in the present moment one experiences the sustained absense of struggle, or suffering as Buddha would put it. That is my definition of perfection. Here’s where it gets nuanced.

As soon as we start questioning whether we are perfect, that is a departure from perfection. And in order to attain this perfection, it simply requires the letting go of that line of thinking. It is important to note that the experience of perfection is not in thinking that we are perfect. It is in the absence of engaging in thinking about our own perfection or lack thereof. That is the goal, and below is how to achieve it.

Now, we could make a thousand different arguments as to why we should question our own perfection, and that is precisely what ego is. It is those arguments. They are not necessary. We think they help us become better and so we fear to let them go. That is the conundrum. It takes courage to let them go, and it also gives us courage to let them go. The additional courage comes from passing The Test. The test goes like this.

Let’s say we think that we are unnattractive and that no one will ever love us as a result. Logically that can easily be disproven. One unnattractive person who is loved disproves it, and that’s without getting into the fact that attractiveness is subjective and there are other factors that trump looks for many: confidence, humor, leadership, emotional intelligence, respectfulness, communication skills, etc. But if we believe that no one will love us because we are ugly, we tend to not want to let go of that belief. We could simply let it go because it isn’t true, but instead we defend it because it evokes fear to examine it. That fear is ego coming into play.

The fear is essentially the question of, “what if it’s true?” What if we really are uniquely and unforgivably hideous? Ego tells us that we would not survive such a truth, and so we fear to examine it. But even if that were true, it wouldn’t kill you. Even if it were true, you could still live a happy and joyful life, and you would do so more easily and readily than you are now by holding onto such a limiting belief.

So the test is to let in that which you fear most. That is the only way you can know that you will survive it. Let your worst fears be true. Imagine that you are unlovable and feel the grief that this brings up, all while giving yourself compassion for it. Cry, pound the bed, wail, howl, do what you need to do to get it out of your system, and you will have relief from that limiting belief that has plagued you.

Then you will be tested again. The negative belief will return to your mind, though it will be weakened each time, and you will simply grieve again — giving yourself compassion — until nothing remains of the limiting belief. At this point, it will have been replaced by a morsel of additional courage which you can use to go and tackle the next limting belief. That is the game. That is one step towards enlightement. Towards in-the-moment perfection.

And really it isn’t about getting to perfection or not. Each step enlightens you. All that stands in the way is your thoughts, and they can be mastered. You have that power.

Self acceptance, my friends.

About the author:

Piotr Zbrojkiewicz is dedicated to helping people cultivate loving relationships with themselves & others — for empowerment, courage, and limitlessness in their daily lives. You can reach him at

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