In this imperfect world, perfection is an illusion.
If you want to understand this illusion called perfection today, stay with me as I break down the chief of all fallacies, the fallacy of perfection.
Let’s dive right into it.
1. The Meaning of the Fallacy of Perfection
The perfection fallacy is the mindset that believes one can be able to handle any situation with complete skill and wisdom. One living with the perfectionist fallacy believes that they can never make mistakes and there’s a possibility for others to never make mistakes as well.
Another form of this fallacy is called the perfect solution fallacy or the nirvana fallacy which states that a solution is useless if part of the problem remains unfixed. So one should not act on an imperfect solution at all until a perfect solution is discovered.
People suffering from the perfect solution fallacy would often compare existing realistic solutions to ideal perfect ones which are often unrealistic. This combination of wishful thinking and black and white mindset at the same time leads to hindrance of productivity and progress.
2. Causes of the Perfection Fallacy
Many perfectionists embrace the perfection fallacy because of the most impressive emotional expression experiences in their lives. Let’s assume you’re a perfectionist as you read this. So what triggers the need to be perfect?
2. Feelings of inadequacy
Do you usually feel you’re not good enough? If you experience undesirable feelings of inadequacy, you’re likely to have perfectionist tendencies to suppress these difficult emotions. Comparison is a high trigger for this.
3. High parent expectations
If your parents always aimed at perfection, pushing you to attain excessively high limits without freedom to express your potential imperfectly, you’ll probably develop extreme standards for the rest of your life.
4. Comparison-based self-criticism
You have your uniqueness the world can recognize and celebrate. Unfortunately, not everyone, not even your caregivers can recognize that. Therefore, they might have praised your siblings more than they did you so you constantly strived to stack up to their standards and even exceed that you may amass the same praise. This behavior continues for life until checked.
5. Excessive critical self talk
If you’re prone to criticizing yourself too much for what you do wrong, you’ll likely develop the perfectionist fallacy over time.
6. Too much criticism from parents
Some parents think that the best way to motivate a child is through criticism. But that isn’t usually the case. If they don’t balance constructive criticism with validation and love in their communication, unhealthy perfectionism develops as the child strives to please them. This continues to adulthood.
7. “Black and white” or “all or nothing” thinking
This mindset usually involves irrational thoughts that if something isn’t perfect, everything isn’t at all good. This irrational thinking never settles on things are good enough. Of course, it’s unrealistic to think things would either be perfect or nothing at all since we live in an imperfect world.
8. Praise on abilities and achievements rather than effort
If a child is raised being praised based on their abilities (IQ, beauty, EQ) and achievements but doesn’t get praised for putting effort or criticized when for not putting effort, they tend to grow seeking perfection in their results above anything.
9. The Effects of the Perfection Fallacy
Perfectionism has its effects. Majorly, they’re negative.
- Worsening the fear of failure
If you focus on being doing things perfectly, you’ll have excessive levels of fear of failure since you don’t want to be labeled delusional, stupid, or anything that suggests imperfection.
- Perpetuating dissatisfaction
If no solution is good enough for you, and yet the perfect idea you have isn’t realistic, you’ll walk in continual dissatisfaction when unable to reach these unrealistic goals you set for yourself.
- Increasing inefficiency
With the perfectionist fallacy at work, you’ll take an unnecessary amount of time trying to perfect things while the extra time could have been used to be more productive in other tasks.
- Creating chronic procrastination
Time doesn’t wait for things to be perfect so if you constantly wait for the perfect time, perfect resources, perfect solutions, you give in to crippling procrastination.
10. Fallacy of Perfection Examples
- There’s no need to plant more trees if others are continuing cutting them unwisely
- Things would be perfect if I earn a million dollars
- It doesn’t matter how much we protect wildlife if animal testing is still allowed
- I lack the ability to listen and speak words eloquently so there’s no hope for me in effective communication.
- There’s no need for racial awareness because racism will never end
- If we’d know the perfect work balance, all our social problems would be solved
- I have been trying to lose weight but just missed my workout routine so I might as well quit this bad idea, there’s no point
Related content: Characteristics of Low Self-Esteem and Solutions
11. Tips to Overcome the Perfection Fallacy for More Balance
Perfectionism would trouble you from time to time. Maybe it troubles you to the extent of crippling much of your progress. Whatever the case, you can overcome the perfectionist fallacy using the following tactics.
11. Understand the subjectivity of perfection
Perfection is an illusion because what you think is perfect isn’t what everyone thinks is perfect. So it’ll be almost useless trying to be perfect to everyone.
Understanding this alone can help you break irrational thinking regarding perfection the moment it comes up to plague you.
At all times, do what you understand is the best standard based on what matters most for whatever you’re doing. When you send it out, you’ll get feedback and improve to grow.
12. Keep your eyes on the big picture
The perfection fallacy can get you stuck on the not-so-important details of a big idea, wasting your time. However, whenever you feel like perfecting a rather irrelevant detail, you need to ask yourself:
- What really matters in the long run?
- Does making this thing perfect in any way improve how the big picture turns out?
- Is the extra time and effort perfecting this worth it?
If you’re a perfectionist, it’s good to remind yourself of the vision so that you can work towards it with progressive, imperfect steps rather than stagnating perfect steps.
13. Follow processes
The perfection fallacy can lie to you that there’s something better you should be waiting for when in reality, there isn’t. Also, even if there’s something better and you don’t know it, you might be stuck on a never-ending search for a vague idea.
However, when you use a particular process, you can know when you hit certain milestones which in turn help you progress to other goals systematically. If you suspect yourself to be a perfectionist, it’s better to choose a process before doing something so that you don’t end up in a perfection fallacy loop of unproductivity.
Related: How To Be Less Controlling
14. Stick to timelines
If processes are inapplicable for a certain situation, timelines are another great option. You can set time to complete tasks so that even if you’re tempted to perfect something, you can stop at good enough.
According to Parkinson’s law, a task would take the time assigned to it to be completed. This explains why you never get your laundry folded until you must. If you don’t tell yourself, “I’ll do X on this day/by this time,” the task would need another trigger (maybe a deadline approaching) to make you do it.
15. Quit rumination cycles
Continuously thinking the same thoughts repeatedly is known as rumination, a form of overthinking that happens a lot in perfectionists. It rarely solves anything but mostly makes the perfectionist more confused with debilitative emotions continuing the rumination cycle.
To bring more balance in your thinking and acting, cut short the rumination cycle by choosing to act on the best solution available to you. As you act instead of striving to think perfectly, your mind would be more open to other creative solutions that improve the outcomes of your efforts.
16. Get another perspective
If stuck in a perfectionism fallacy, it’s good to get someone who thinks differently to get things into perspective. Their input to your problem can give you insight and confidence to act on the best solution that you may progress.
Sometimes you need someone else to encouragingly say, “Just do it, stop overthinking things.” Be it your friend or even a professional, getting another perspective to see beyond the perfection fallacy would bring great balance in your life.
17. Prioritize your perfectionism
Do you need to perfect everything in your life? Probably not.
Some things may matter to you when they’re in their absolute best but you probably have other scenarios you accept “good enough”. You need to know both of these spectrums in your life.
Knowing your perfection priorities would help you retain positive perfectionist tendencies and do away with other irrelevant ones for more balance. For instance, you may like to polish your email to grammatical perfection (do that) but don’t find it necessary to make your house spotlessly clean (you don’t have to).
18. Deal with yourself as you would a friend
Sometimes we’re too self-critical with ourselves and yet if our friend was in the same situation, we’d show them the way with kindness. So how about you show yourself the same kindness you show a friend?
When having your own self-talk as if you’re the friend, you can tell yourself things like:
- Stop being hard on yourself, you’ve done your best
- What you’ve done is good enough, it doesn’t have to be perfect
- You really struggle with X so you’ve really done a great job
- Others might not appreciate you but you’ve done your best, you’re good enough
Positive self-talk would help you get out of the perfectionist trap more times than you can ever imagine. So apply it.
19. Identify and deal with the triggers
What triggers you to be perfect? What do you really fear?
Perfectionism comes out of fears. Fear of failure, fear of disapproval, fear of the unknown — identify your fear. Which of the causes of perfectionism is this fear stemming from?
Asking yourself these questions during your self-reflection can reveal truths to help you overcome the perfectionist fallacy and achieve more balance.
20. Focus on being a professional and not a perfectionist
A perfectionist aims to be just that, perfect but a professional focuses on being effective and efficient. There’s a thin line between the two but if you’re honest enough with yourself, you’d know when you’re acting out either.
A perfectionist may defy deadlines to perfect a job but a professional would do the best they can at a particular project while keeping the timeline best for the job.
Therefore, when perfectionism kicks in, look for ways not to be more perfect but to provide the best results in the best time possible.
21. Choose progress instead of perfection
This is the bottom line of all tips. While you may struggle to ensure balance in your life with perfectionist pressures weighing on you, remember to look unto progress instead of staying perfect.
Sometimes you’ll seem perfect, other times just good enough, and most times downright messy. There’s a time for everything but what matters is that you’re progressing.
Perfection and the Most Common Fallacies
Forms of irrational thought in emotional expression break down into 7 major fallacies. These irrational thoughts make up the main ways we tend to think unrealistically and therefore, go off balance with debilitative feelings taking the lead. Knowing the rest of the fallacies would help you achieve more balance in your life.
- The perfection fallacy claims that to be competent you have to handle every situation (especially effective communication) with complete confidence and skill
- The fallacy of helplessness suggests that you have no control over your life happiness or satisfaction
- The fallacy of approval suggests that it’s important and even possible to obtain everyone’s approval even at the expense of sacrificing one’s own principles
- The fallacy of catastrophic expectations is when one thinks of the worst that could happen and believes that it will indeed happen. For example, you can say, “People will laugh at me when I try this business idea”
- The fallacy of over generalization bases its illogical conclusions on little evidence and exaggerates shortcomings. For instance, when you fail your driving test and claim, “I can’t do anything right, I’m so stupid!”
- The causation fallacy happens when a person bases their belief on the causes of things without concrete evidence. For instance, “I have to avoid speaking up because it’ll hurt other people’s feelings.”
- The fallacy of should is the inability to differentiate reality and what could be. For example, when it rains you might say “It shouldn’t rain,” or when one person already acts a certain way and you tell them, “You shouldn’t do this,” in an effort to convince them to not do something.
Related: People-Pleasing and Control
Closing Thoughts on the Perfection Fallacy
Perfectionism is the killer of productivity and progress. But now that you understand this dangerous fallacy, you can spot it when it surfaces and overcome it with the above tactics to achieve more balance in your life.
Before you go, let us know your thoughts on the topic in the comments below. Also, share this piece with a friend to help us reach more lives. Thank you for reading!