The idea of perfectionism is fairly straight-forward to understand; striving to do everything in a way which is perfect, flawless, without error. And I’m sure we all know people who are perfectionists, for whom second-best simply will not do. It all seems harmless enough and, is there anything wrong with wanting everything to be just right? Research published in 2017, carried out by Thomas Curren and Andrew P. Hill, shows that from 1989 to 2016 there has been a significant increase in self-orientated, socially prescribed and other-orientated perfectionism. In other words, we are demanding more of ourselves, peer pressure demands more of us, and factors external to us are also expecting more. Again, is there anything wrong with wanting ever better?
The answer, it would seem, is that there is a lot wrong with this perpetually increasing push for perfection. There is a year-on-year increase in the number of people experiencing and reporting negative mental health issues, something which appears to be disproportionately affecting young people, although the rest of us are far from immune. Advertising, the media, social media; all seem to be promoting an increasingly glossy view of the world to which many of use simply cannot aspire. This surely has to take its toll, which the work of Curren and Hill confirms.
It is time to stop. Time to reflect. Time to work out who we really want to be. And all we really need to ask, no, demand, is for each of us to be the very best version of ourselves. Nothing more and nothing less. I know I can do that. And you know that you can too, don’t you?
There is a plethora of self-help books, articles, websites and the like out there, and many perpetuate the myth that it takes 21 or possibly 30 or possibly some other random number of days to embed a new habit or behaviour. The truth about embedding change is somewhat different.
In 1960 Dr Maxwell Maltz published “Psycho-Cybernetics” in which he shared his views on behaviour change, and this included his observation that change took a minimum of 21 days to embed. This was not a random number, but a number based on his observations of how long his patients took to adjust to surgical changes to their bodies as well as his own observations of how long it took him to change his own behaviour.
With the passing of time, the minimum of 21 days became 21 days or 30 days or another number of days. The reality is we are all different. Some changes can and do happen more quickly, whereas others can take time. The important first step is wanting to change and then knowing what that change will be. If you can do that for yourself, do it. You also know that you can seek help, because the most important is becoming the very best version of yourself, isn’t it?