The failed perfectionist

Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.[1][2] It is best conceptualized as a multidimensional characteristic, as psychologists agree that there are many positive and negative aspects.[3] In its maladaptive form, perfectionism drives people to attempt to achieve an unattainable ideal, and their adaptive perfectionism can sometimes motivate them to reach their goals. In the end, they derive pleasure from doing so. When perfectionists do not reach their goals, they often fall into depression.

– culled from

Half of me is an idealist. Everything must be perfect, colourful, vivid. Things are said and done right and everyone is happy, happy, happy.  The picture is intact, no mistakes, no errors, no excuses.

The other half is a realist. Nothing is right, which is the way its meant to be.  There are mistakes and tears and cracks, but there is always the strength to bear them. It’s sometimes quiet and dull, but never mind, I am content with that.

These two halves of me are constantly at war.  I really, really REALLY want everything to meet certain self-made or assumed expectations and when I don’t, I beat myself up for the error or the inability to do so. I know exactly what I’m doing, but it’s hard to stop.

                                                Take the perfectionism test

For example, I was asked at a seminar to give a one liner on what I’d learnt in that session.  My notebook was right in front of me and I saw lots of one-liners, but some part of me felt those were not good enough and the speaker probably wanted to hear something that was more intellectual. I ended up  saying probably 5 sentences and not making sense at all (I think). Feeling that I must have missed the mark, it ruined the better part of my day and for the rest of that seminar I mentally beat myself up for that mistake. Believe it or not, I’m not over it, despite trying to talk myself out of the embarrassment I felt.


This was a week ago. Just yesterday I noticed that a dedicated reader of my blog had made a comment.  While I made a mental note to reply, I decided to read the post again and found a typo. I cringed in horror.

Idealist: “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

Realist: “Yawn”. It’s nothing. You always make typos”

Idealist: “Exactly! That’s why I read the post like umpteen times before posting! How could I have missed that?”

Realist: “Don’t be too hard on yourself, remember you were busy at work, were travelling the next day and probably didn’t have enough time to be thorough. I think you did good, having time to post at all.”

Idealist: “Precisely why I think you shouldn’t write until you have enough time to think your thoughts through! Plus I told you that hair post was dumb anyways.”

Realist: “All my posts are dumb to you. I need to keep writing for sanity’s…”

Idealist: “Oh shut up!”

Yes, that was me, just yesterday.  I edited the post but I’m yet to get over what she will think of my poor grammar and proof reading abilities.9c465e1c89c9a9f2b69e2148319c3c83

The struggle to be perfect and the coming to terms with the fact that I can never be is mentally painful and draining.  There are times when I am able to deal with HUGE issues and not lose sweat over it and then I can actually lose sleep over something very036ad15f71143c67b0018e51e0c4a8f0 petty.  The point of imbalance is unclear but I know it exists somewhere in my head.

One of the reasons why I stopped singing was because I never felt good enough or as good as I wanted to sound in my head. I have only just gotten over it, which is why I have been able to produce 3 tracks in the past 2 years.  I don’t like the way I sound over a recording, even though I don’t really know how else I should sound – just not like me.  Like I said, I am getting over it. This is also the reason why, when I was planning concerts in the past, the relief and feeling of accomplishment only came because people said they had fun, not because I thought it was what I really wanted it to be.

I am a failed perfectionist. I know I will never achieve that picture perfect outcome I always envision about myself in my mind. I know I will never be mentally and intellectually, spiritually, socially or physically 100 percent. I will keep trying though, even if have to bleed myself to get there.


Resource: Help for perfectionists 

all images sourced from


8 thoughts on “The failed perfectionist

  1. I suffer from the exact same thing. That’s one of the reasons I don’t post as much as I would like. I took the test. I’m a mild perfectionist. Explains why I’m still beating myself over mistakes I made in Primary School. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Afterthought: I honestly think you are a good writer, NaijaBritt. Honest. You write with clarity of thought and I never notice how long your post is until I’m done reading, which depicts how engaging it can be. Your book reviews are unbiased and objective. I remember wondering if I could ever do a review like that (referring to your Biafra post). Please fight through the idea that you are not good enough. You are. Looking forward to your next post!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much! 😊 I will definitely fight it. It’s really nice to hear this from someone who is a very talented writer and I really enjoy reading your blog. I’ve noticed the support you’ve given me and it means a lot to me. Thanks again.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think one of the best lessons anyone can learn is how to receive forgiveness for their mistakes or errors and move on. I don’t think we learn it at one go. It’s an ongoing education. If we keep at it, we get better over time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Surprisingly, I’m a Mild Perfectionist, although still on the higher end of that spectrum. I call myself a Recovering Perfectionist in all honesty, since I used to be VERY hard on myself (and by extension, other people) when I was younger. I’m still trying to get better at it and like you, I can be fine about big life things but the petty stuff is where it reduces me to a ball of anxiety, insecurity, and overthinking. Sigh.

    As to typos and stuff, that happens to EVERYONE. I don’t even really notice them if they do happen because if it’s not a repeat offense and occurring everywhere, it’s just a little sign that you’re human just like everyone else. 🙂 Even my supervisor at work, who has over 15 years of experience in writing and publishing, has made typos (which I then just correct for her). It’s just a part of life. It’s hard to put in practice, but if you tell yourself every day not to mind things so much, it will gradually start getting easier to get over the little things that don’t really matter anyway. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sigh’s the word!!! It’s funny how you know you shouldn’t worry about those petty things but you still do. Also no one knows more than yourself that you need to snap out of it and be normal but it’s a chore to apply what you know. I think part of this problem stems from the idea of viewing myself through people’s eyes, and that’s not even okay!
    Maybe taking practical steps towards overcoming this habit (like telling myself its okay to be human 🙂 ) is in order. I worry that overcoming years of habit will not be an easy task but I guess its starting at all that matters most. Thanks Lilian! 🙂


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