Friday, March 19, 2010


Not that I expected that I will write this post today.... It came as a completely random thought yesterday on my mind. Just why are people so obsessive about being a perfectionist in one thing or the other in life..

While I admit that it is important to strive to live with a certain level of discipline and routine and perfection and policy and principle, I am just not able to understand why some people do not know to take it easy. Of course, as I write this post, I recall how many times I have been in the same place too.. So, now that I am writing this post you must understand that I have come out of that high-level of perfection for my own good.

This post is a general thought process on being a perfectionist.

The first time I heard this word was when I was in college. One of the seniors in my hostel corridor was literally yelling about a professor who irritates the class by his perfectionism. I did not understand, but did not want to add a little more oil to the already burning fire in her eyes. She was stressed beyond words. So quietly referred the dictionary and got the meaning correct. That was the first time I recollected how being a perfectionist can actually irritate some people as much as it adds credit to self.

As an engineering student, we used to have this class on Engineering Drawing where every millimeter in the drawing has to be perfect for this super-perfectionist professor we had. Although over the years I understood that a building drawing cannot be marked in incorrect measures even by a centimeter or Milli meter, the fact that it was 'just' a drawing class and this person was obsessed about getting all the points to the last millimeter correct irritated me and a lot of others, a lot. That said, we were forced to focus on perfection in the drawings and when I turned in my finished drawing sheet on the Engineering exam day, I felt good about the perfectionism. It was either the perfectionism gained in the drawing class or the practice for the exam- whatever worked, and I came out very successful in that exam. Here, perfectionism did stress me a lot, but did not irritate me; it was definitely necessary to get that good score in the examination.

The next three years of engineering class went on with some perfectionism issues between me and my professors. Always the professors wanted perfectionism and I walked around with the thought that ' Its not bad at all and its surely okay this way'. The final test on perfectionism was for my project report documentation where it was just too much to handle the minor, trivial, nano scale perfectionism issues. After all the hard work on the report, it was intolerable to hear about a missing comma or an extra dot somewhere in the document. I just did not get why people behaved like they work for a publication company when all I was doing was writing a college project report. The learning part did not sink in, what mattered the most was the botheration on being perfect. Direct stress on us and we did a good job finally.

Then came the work life... Here, there was almost always a manager who wanted everything to be perfect and almost always a lot of work load that usually tends to question you : Is that last check important or going home for a good night's sleep important?? Depending on the tiredness level, I choose one over the other and the results end up accordingly. I still hate being questioned for trivial things, while I fully well understand that these small things matter at work. I think most stress is because of sloppy planning and these last minute perfectionism demands.

This extends the same way in some people's houses too, I have seen. Eat at 8:00 P.M, sleep at 10:00 P.M, clean the house every Saturday even if you have an important function to attend, eat out every Sunday morning no matter what, attend a party every Friday, play till 6:30 only, study for three hours, watch television for 20 minutes only....

I agree some of these habits are good for children and it is important, but in some houses I see that the perfectionism delves too deep into the child psychology and disturbs the casual mind set that the child is entitled to have. I saw a five year old cleaning her play rack. When asked she said," I have to clean it every Saturday'. At five, this is too much. To some people this might seem a 'Wow' but I can see that this child might end up spending all her precious time in future cleaning up the house and if at all she gets stressed out in life, it will be only for this cause. Wonder why people don't understand that sometimes it is just okay for the play toys to be lying around in the house..

Stress levels increase because of some of these unwritten, imposed rules. Have strict rules at home and work, but put them in a way that the family and your subordinates do not feel it a 'Military' camp.

Why not think about taking trivial things the way they are and save the thoughts spent in stress for more important reasons. Thoughts are like money.. When you spend a lot for unimportant and unnecessary things, there will be no money left for important necessities.

You don't have to be perfect. Nobody is. And You cannot be perfect in everything, everyday, and time and again. That said, I don't mean you do not attempt to be perfect, but do not get obsessed with perfectionism in a way that it disrupts your inner peace and your family's happiness.


SG said...

I think there are two takes here – one, the need for perfection and two, the need to be a perfectionist. The difference is, in the former you expect perfection in what you do or your team does. In the latter, you are just obsessed about being a perfectionist and you don’t care what others think or have to say about it and the latter category ends up being annoying. The former I think is important and is also easy to deal with because the need for perfection can be quelled by whether you are looking for a result that is good or good-enough. In today’s market, people are ready to take good-enough if it saves them time and money (e-books, e-cards etc.)….and finally, as always, it boils down to live and let live !

SK said...

My fellow Germans are very famous in this. :)

Yes, as you said its irritating most of the time and stressful.

Musing Gal said...

This post made me smile thinking of myself. I like things to be in its place all the time, my idea of cleaning is just changing the position because I got bored seeing it one way ... I have improved from this behaviour, but could not let go... If something moved from its position, there was a time I could not sleep in the night without putting it back in place :) Not there anymore! But even now I cannot imagine everything being haphazard in the house.

prateek sur said...

know wat my roomie and i keep fighting over the fact as to who is more popular, srk or aamir..and always he gives the lame excuse of aamir being a had kinda started havin a disgust for the word..ur post did give me a more higher viewer perspective..

Deepak G said...

perfectly rite...god never meant us to be perfect..only machines can be perfect

Priya H said...

Well, I dont think striving to be perfect is wrong, but when that perfectionism makes a person stressful, yes, it is high time to control the urge to be perfect. Some of the habits that my mom developed in me, made me feel that it is a 'military' rule when I was a child, but not anymore. Those habits are making miracles in my life. Thank you amma!
And about ED class, I think we had the same professor and yes, I remember the sufferings! But at the end, I felt that professor was just awesome. And I passed all the ED exams, well thats a miracle too considering my carelessness and easy going attitude.

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