The Perfect Syndrome: 10 Things You Need to Know

That’s perfect!

She’s perfect!

That is the perfect outfit.

I want to be the perfect girlfriend.

I. want. to. be. perfect.

‘Normal’ is out, ‘unique’ is a nice word for weird and ‘ideal’ is overrated.  ‘Perfect’ is in.

A few months ago when I was looking at my website statistics and saw that “prettiest, skinniest girl in school” was a search term people were using to get to my website, I realized the perfect syndrome was a bigger problem than I anticipated.

Perfect Syndrome: The desire, drive and need to be perfect as a person, in an activity or with someone else.

More and more I am seeing friends, clients and readers grapple with this need to be perfect.  I wanted to outline a few things for readers to be aware and prevent against this type of thinking.

1. Picture Perfect 2.0

When someone took a picture of you at your cousin’s birthday you didn’t think much about the weird face you were making or the fact that you were not wearing much makeup.  Now, that picture gets more eyeballs than in a simple home album because…

2. Online access and permanence means more perfect

Candidates for jobs, teens and kids are constantly told that the Internet now makes everything you post accessible to everyone and permanent.  Don’t post a picture of yourself getting drunk because you never know who might see it.  It also sends another message, don’t post a less than perfect picture of yourself because it will last forever.

3. Techno-Perfection

Is a sister disease to the perfect syndrome.  A few months ago I wrote about how technology and invention is getting us closer to perfection so we want it more.  Case in point: HD makeup.

4. Perfect and Pretty are close.

When I wrote the article on being the perfect, skinniest girl in school I was talking about

5. Perfect is Addictive

There is a slipper cycle I especially see with teen girls.  They get a perfect score on a paper or in a gymnastics competition.  It feels good, really good.  Then, if they get anything less than perfect it feels like a failure.

6. Perfect and Food

The desire to be perfect and disordered eating come very close together.  It can start when mom makes dinner but doesn’t eat any.  When you come to family dinner, but do not have any.  When you do not eat off your own plate, but eat off everyone else’s.  Pro-ana (pro anorexia sites) websites also make it easy and seem normal to be obsessed with eating to perfection (or not eating to perfection.

7. Everyone Wants it and No One Has It

Perfection is one of those illusive and mysterious concepts that everyone wants, but no one actually feels like they has.  This is an important concept to understand or help relay to your perfect-seeker.  It never feels like you have perfection.

8. What Tense Do You Live In?

A lot of perfect seekers live in a different tense.  What I mean is, they either are obsessed with something that went wrong in the past and therefore trying to be perfect now to make up for it, or are worrying about their success in the future and want to be perfect for a future point.  It is important to think about what tense you are living in and bring it to the present tense. Live for now.

9. Unicorn in a Balloon Factory

When I work with teens I can usually pinpoint perfect seekers because they act like unicorns in a balloon factory.  They want to be beautiful and awe inspiring but have absolutely no room to move because they are afraid something might pop if they do.  This leaves them anxious, immobile and afraid.

10. The Pop Ain’t So Bad

I fail all the time, everyday, every time I send out an email to another parenting site asking to trade guest posts or start a project that readers hate.  I learn more from those mistakes than my successes.  When something pops, or fails I find that I am way better off that I ever think I could be.

I talk about perfect-seekers like they are a certain group of people, the truth is, perfect seekers are in all of us.  Some have it stronger and in more areas of our lives than others, but some part of us always wants to be perfect.  It is important to look at the tips above and be aware of this part of ourselves and see if it makes us live in a different tense, afraid of popping the balloons in our life or is something we will never truly be able to attain.

2 Responses to “The Perfect Syndrome: 10 Things You Need to Know”

  1. Lorrie
    September 25, 2009 at 6:38 am #

    Perfect is a perfect topic for discussing our growing teens. Perfect is a wonderful, elusive and dangerous thing. It is something you can achieve on a math test, and a few others, but for the bulk of daily living it is only an idea–not a reality.

    When our son was younger, between the ages of 5 and 10, we saw him gravitate towards obsession of his vision of perfect. But we nipped that one in the bud and did not give into his ‘quirks’ he is thankful for it now. He is willing to try things that he might now be instantly good, or ‘perfect’ at–like skiing. Thought he’d been a snowboarder since he was ten, at fifteen he was willing to go out to the bunny hill with a pair of skis on his feet. That is just one of many examples–his clothes now don’t all have to be the same colour, and his food may have a variety of textures in them… he’s grown to accept and enjoy diversity and taking some risks that push him beyond the realm of attempting to attain perfection. This is not to say that he doesn’t like the ‘right answer’ or actually enjoys drumsticks more than chicken breasts, he’ll go for the breast meat everytime given the choice. But his choice is no longer to go without if he can’t have it.

    Thank you for reminding readers about the hazards of perfection. There is a place for the need for that–I’d like my surgon to be ‘perfect’ in their life-saving techniques. A perfectly turned phrase is a lovely thing to read, as is a perfectly turned piece of pottery, but appearance … it has to end there.

    Nice, thoughtful article–not perfect, and that’s the way I prefer it;)

  2. Vanessa Van Petten
    September 25, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    thank you ; )

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