Are you a Perfectionist? Learning to Find the Beauty in the ‘Imperfect’


Do you know or highly suspect you might be a perfectionist? There are plenty of good reasons to strive for excellence and have high standards. But if you’re a perfectionist, nothing is ever quite exemplary enough and nothing ever exactly matches your criteria. And if it causes you undue suffering, it’s certainly something to contemplate. Consider the following scenario and reflect on how this might resonate with you.

You and your partner decide to throw an extravagant dinner party. You spend days thinking about just the right recipes that will play and pair with one another and meet your guests’ dietary requirements (fish, but no other meat, and no dairy). Because you couldn’t even begin the process of finding recipes for the menu until the day before your party because you were stuck fretting over what the very best recipes were, you’re a stressed-out mess. Finally, you decide on your menu and go shopping for the ingredients. It takes hitting four grocery stores to find the best produce, fish, and seasonings. Your kitchen is a frenzy the day of the party, and your partner isn’t doing everything the way you want it done.
Now there’s the matter of setting the table. You observe one of your plates has a chip in it and you need every last plate to match. You send your partner to Crate and Barrel to buy another one, and he’s pissed at you again. You arrange the furniture to accommodate an easy flow of conversation, but in doing so notice a small stain the sofa had been hiding, so you spend forty minutes removing it. Big, beautiful hydrangeas are what you envisioned for the centerpiece, but you couldn’t find any at the various grocery stores and had to settle for tulips, which is really upsetting. Exhausted because you barely slept the night before planning for your dinner, you shower, blow your hair out, and spend far too much time deciding on the right outfit. Your partner is screaming at you that your guests will be arriving any second and you’re still not ready. Neither of you is looking forward to the evening even the tiniest bit.


What could have been a fantastic night turned into a straight-up nightmare of perfectionistic over-planning and turned into an evening devoid of fun. We all have a little bit of a perfectionist living inside of us, but most are able to let go of minor mishaps and tiny mistakes. When perfectionist tendencies rule your world, the emotional heartache has the potential to take a toll in ways you may not realize. And if you are unaware of your desire for perfection, you can’t really do much about it. Here are a few characteristics of a perfectionist personality. You may be surprised at a couple of the traits:

  • Procrastination. Perfectionists tend to wait for the perfect moment and the right amount of time so they have the ability to tweak every little thing.
  • Being Overly Detail Oriented. Attention to detail is vital, but needing everything to be exactly as you envision it without the ability to identify the big picture is a tell-tale sign that you are a perfectionist. Not possessing the ability to determine which details matter versus those that really don’t.
  • Depression. Refusal to ask for help or to be flexible about the way something is done is a common trait of perfectionists. Setting unrealistic goals that lead to disappointment. Beating yourself up for every perceived mistake is something perfectionists do constantly. And never feeling satisfied is something you experience basically every second of the day.
  • Sacrificing One’s Health. Skipping sleep, meals, and workouts because you’re working on your goals and that’s more important than self-care.
  • Very High Standards. There’s a thin line between aiming for excellence and insisting on perfection. The inability or unwillingness to identify the distinction is a hallmark quality of perfectionists.
Now, even if most of us can identify with a lot of this, and we may even resemble these traits from time to time, there is a difference between relating and embracing. I certainly appreciate impeccable latte art as much as the next person, but the drink will taste the same even if the foam just sits there doing nothing aesthetically.
 There is a solution though, and it’s a universal truth:
There is no such thing as perfection. It doesn’t exist. 
Wabi Sabi is a beautiful Japanese philosophy that teaches the wonder and lovely truth of imperfection. Nothing is perfect and nothing is finished—this ethos offers the perfect antidote to the suffering that can come from perfectionism. Seeing the beauty in everything diminishes the idea that one form of beauty is superior to another. I live for messy hair and there is no such thing as perfect messy hair. It’s gorgeous in any interpretation.
 Imperfections exist. How can we learn to admire them and understand them, instead of seeing them as something to fix? How can we see the beauty in the not-so-perfect? And how can we appreciate that the imperfect is as beautiful as the constructed “perfect?” Learning to adjust our lens so we focus on the beauty of reality is a much easier and sweeter way of life. Take it one step at a time. Start small and remember it takes practice. Planning a party? Start by embracing mismatched dishes, or better yet—make it a potluck. That way you can enjoy the conversation, and know that the menu will be mismatched per design.

By Lara Falberg

Lara Falberg

Comments are closed.