In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss the poison of perfectionism and its link to self-centeredness & narcissism.
First a quick update:
**** The Law of Deservedness – watch the in-depth interview I give to Harrison Klein about the way we sabotage our lives when we don’t feel good enough. One viewer wrote to me “I was crying almost the whole way through the interview.” Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgZFPLQ-K-c
**** Can Kevin Jonas’ marriage survive the reality show curse? – Read my quotes in the article on Celebuzz.com about the new reality show with Kevin Jonas and his wife and what I call the curse of the reality show and how it destroys relationships and marriages. http://www.celebuzz.com/2012-04-30/can-kevin-jonas-marriage-survive-reality-show-curse-expert-weighs-in-exclusive/
Also read my article “Reality shows lead to divorce”: http://patrickwanis.com/blog/reality-shows-lead-to-divorce/ and “The curse of the reality show”: http://patrickwanis.com/blog/curse-of-the-reality-show/
Now, let’s talk about the poison of perfectionism and its link to self-centeredness & narcissism.
The dictionary defines perfection as the state of being flawless, free from fault or defect. Perfection can also refer to achieving maturity (such as a wine ‘maturing to perfection’) or the quality or state of being saintly (again implying a state of flawlessness.)
The desire to achieve perfection usually begins in childhood with programming by parents who directly or indirectly reinforce the belief that the child is not good enough, and, never will be.
Do you engage in the following self-talk?
- I can’t do anything right
- I always mess up
- I am an idiot
- It’s not good enough
- I am not good enough
- Why can’t I do better?
The above self-talk are actually voices from the past. Remove the word “I” from each sentence and replace it with “You” and it is most likely the words of a parent spoken to a child.
Children have no control over what their parents will say or do and therefore are truly victims of the programming of their parents. However, today, children and adults are constantly being brainwashed into perfectionism by society – media, advertising and peers.
“How the ‘Chinplant’ has become the latest must-have for U.S teens wanting to dazzle on prom night” is one recent headline from the Daily Mail UK which also identified:
- 20,680 chin augmentations carried out in the U.S. in 2011
- Procedure grew more than breast augmentation, Botox and liposuction combined
- “71 per cent increase in the procedure being carried out in the U.S in the past year, with many of them being performed on high school girls desperate to look more glamorous than their peers.”
The pressure for perfectionism is coming from all angles.
Commercials, television shows magazine covers, and online articles reinforce directly and indirectly (consciously, subconsciously and subliminally) the requirement for physical perfection in the form of youth, beauty and arbitrary ideals. Even Dr. Oz in his television show recently featured the women from the Real Housewives of Orange County discussing their plastic surgery, thus glamorizing and promoting as the new standard, the belief that women must constantly look younger, and are therefore never good enough the way they are.
Various other TV shows are also often promoting various techniques and procedures for women to look younger, to remove wrinkles and even bags under the eyes.
Constant exposure to these images, ideas, ideals and practices reprograms one’s beliefs into thinking that this is what is expected and this is what one should be.
The result is that you believe that you are not good enough and you must be perfect – and in all areas of your life.
Madeline Levine, author of “The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids” identifies that:
“In recent years, numerous studies have shown that bright, charming, seemingly confident and socially skilled teenagers from affluent, loving families are experiencing epidemic rates of depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders—rates higher than in any other socioeconomic group of American adolescents. Materialism, pressure to achieve, perfectionism, and disconnection are combining to create a perfect storm that is devastating children of privilege and their parents alike.”
The greatest victim of perfectionism is women.
Duke University, one of the highest-rated colleges in the US, in 2005, identified that its undergraduate women were entering the university with a high level of self-confidence, but were graduating 4 years later with eating disorders, increased rates of drug and alcohol abuse, stress-related illnesses, and an overall sense of insecurity and self-doubt. The social climate for women at Duke was described by one student as “effortless perfection” – women had to be not only academically successful, but also successful by all the traditionally female markers – thin, pretty, well-dressed, nice hair, nice nails – and of course, with no visible effort.
The losing battle to be perfect is exactly that – a battle – and the attempt to make it effortless only creates more pain, disillusionment and unhappiness.
Perfectionism leads to self-loathing, criticism and judgment. And as referenced above, it also leads to substance abuse, depression, anxiety and overall unhappiness and unfulfillment. The fear of not being able to be perfect or not being able to achieve perfection prevents people from even trying, creating helplessness and hopelessness; it destroys relationships – when you expect perfection from yourself, you also expect the same from others. And no one can ever live up to that expectation or demand.
One of the primary causes of perfectionism is self-absorption – obsessive self-consciousness and narcissism.
Stephen Bergman is a clinical therapist at Harvard Medical School and at the Stone Center at Wellesley College and co-author of “We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Men and Women.” A former alcoholic, Stephen relates that his shift and moment of clarity occurred when he was listening to a teacher who opened his eyes when she revealed that self-centeredness is the basis of all psychological suffering.
This refers to when we choose to focus only on ourselves, falsely believing or creating the paradigm that the world and universe revolve around us; when we think that we are the most important person or creature on the planet; when we become the only focus in our world.
Social media encourages us to boast to the world what we are doing and how great we look; television shows and narcissistic celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton promote greed, materialism and self-centeredness and; the media continually asks us to buy something so that we can be better looking or richer or more attractive – so that we can be perfect.
Of course, you must love and respect yourself. Of course, you must learn to forgive, love and accept yourself. And if you have experienced pain and trauma, you must also seek to heal yourself. But authentic self-love is not narcissism or self-centeredness; authentic self-love & appreciation leads to the desire to love, serve and help others. And as I reveal in the interview I give to Harrison Klein about the “Law of Deservedness” – “we need meaning and purpose in our life…and it comes from helping others.”
Avoid the poison of perfectionism by instead seeking completeness.
The oldest definition of ‘perfection’ comes from Aristotle who defined it three ways
1. Complete – contains all the requisite parts
2. So good that nothing of the kind could be better
3. Has attained its purpose
By seeking to live your purpose, to help others and to make a difference, you can feel complete and be free of the pain of perfectionism and the psychological suffering of self-centeredness!
Also read these articles:
You’ll never measure up: http://patrickwanis.com/blog/youll-never-measure-up/
What makes a woman ugly: http://patrickwanis.com/blog/what-makes-a-woman-ugly/
Are you good enough? http://patrickwanis.com/blog/are-you-good-enough/
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist