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Perfectionism - is it good or bad?





tidruG
I'm posting this in the Philosophy and Religion forum because I'm looking for some good, interesting, well-thought of replies. Here we go:

I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I'm generally never satisfied with something I do, even if I try to improve it quite a few times. The end result is that generally whatever I'm trying to do/make ends up being pretty good (based on the limits of how well I can do it... for instance, my satisfaction levels for PHP-based design are pretty low because I'm a PHP Novice). However, sometimes, it just leaves me feeling a little frustrated/unhappy, and sometimes, causes me to lose interest in the project.

My question is...
How do you view perfectionism?
Do you think it's good because it makes you keep improving something?
Do you think it's bad because a highly perfectionist person may never really be satisfied with the end result?
wumingsden
I guess I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and don't mind admitting it.

Although it is postive because it means I improve on something whatever I do, in the end this doesn't matter because I'm never happy with the end product, even if other people think it's a good thing.

However, this doesn't usually make me lose interest in whatever I'm trying to achieve perfection in (ie. Just about everything).
An example is a premodded forum which I have been creating for over half a year. It has been ready so many times I've almost lost count, but then I decide that it's actually not good enough for me to release even when people like it.

I guess therefore losing interest because your striving for perfection which cannot be achieved is dependant on the person, and not if you are in fact a perfectionist, or not. I'm the kind of perfectionist that rarely gives up, causing me to have a lot of projects which last longer to complete until i'm finally ok with the final project, which again rarely happens.

That's what I do with my time. Rolling Eyes
UlrikeSE
I'm a happier person for investing in the process towards perfection. If I feel like i'm constantly improving, whether its towards an end for perfection or not, i'm always happy.
livilou
Perfectionism can be a double edge sword. If it makes you strive to be better then it's done a good thing. But if it makes you loose interest because you can't do it as well as you think you should, then it's been bad.

I realize that that comment simplifies it some, but it's true. I can be a perfectionist in some things but not in others. PHP is as good an example as any. I know I can learn it, and I do keep trying, but I'll get frustrated and leave it alone for a while and go back to it later. For some reason, that sensor in my brain that says "That's it," hasn't clicked yet, but it will. lol And since patience with myself isn't one of my strong points, it gets aggrevating sometimes when I have a hard time learning some things that I feel I should pick up easily.

Even if you are a perfectionist, don't forget that you are allowed to make mistakes just like everyone else.
loryl
Perfectionism is a characteristic that rewards us with detail and accuracy at the cost of speed. Whether it's good or not depends on what you're doing.

But the obvious aspects aside...
Are you a perfectionist because it makes you happy or because you think it will make society around you happy? If you were stuck on an island, would you care to be as perfect? If being a perfectionist makes you, and only you, happy, then yes, it's a good quality in you. If not, then you're just helping your hair gray faster.

P.S.: I'm a lazy perfectionist and enjoying every moment of it. Woohoo.
Soulfire
I think that the hunt is more fun than the kill, that is to say that we strive for perfection, but nobody actually wants to obtain it, because if we obtain perfection there's no point to life.
tidruG
Soulfire wrote:
I think that the hunt is more fun than the kill, that is to say that we strive for perfection, but nobody actually wants to obtain it, because if we obtain perfection there's no point to life.

You know what?
That's a brilliant point.
I quite agree with you.

The problem with perfection is that once you think you've achieved it, there's nothing more to add, nothing more to do.

Note that I used the term "once you think you've achieved it", because personally, I think the idea of perfection is very subjective.
RoughitforGreen247
I'd have to disagree with you there. From what I see of life, the goal of any and all human toil is contentment. When you get right down to it, even unselfish acts lead, subconsciously, to one's own contentment. Contentment, and not perfection or even competence, is the ultimate prize of any job, and perfectionism is the direct opposition of that goal. To be content is to be happy. To be a perfectionist is to never be content and to never be content is to never be truly happy. Perfection is not the state of being unimprovable, because that is, arguably, a rational impossibility. Perfection as it should be interpreted, is merely the state where one does not feel the need to observe the faults of the thing. It's kind of late right now, so I'll come back and edit this all into coherence in the morning, if I remember, but I'll just say that perfectionism is pretty bad for you.
JinTenshi
I would say perfectionism is good. But not to the point of obsession. I myself is also a perfectionist. I strive to build the ultimate website, but each time I just feel it ain't good enough, I have to relaunch a new webpage, I need a better design. Though we strive all we might towards perfection, but understand that nothing in this world is perfect, and therefore we will not stop improving.

But should we get obsessed over getting perfect results and being perfect, then I think we might be overdo-ing it. It could cost us our lives. Wink The bottom line is, you are who you are, just don't overdo yourself. It's not wrong to be a perfectionist, neither is it bad.
Tex_Arcana
Looks like everyone pretty much sums it up as perfectionism is good in that you constantly strive to improve, but it's bad if it just drives you crazy if you are never happy with your results.

I have a strange kind of perfectionism, I'm constantly trying to improve my knowledge base. I like learning new things and applying them. I have a list of the things I want to learn from languages to permaculture design to welding. All these things take time and in the mean time I'm still improving on the things I'm learning now like web design (always something new to learn) and programing.

It keeps me busy and I have a pretty eclectic knowledge base. Someone wrote a book about pole like me and coined the term scanners (I guess she never watched cheesy '70s horror flicks). I guess I prefer the old term Jack of all trades.
GSIS
Perfectionism is self-inflicted pedantism.

I think of it as the art of placing a deliberate mistake in the weave of a rug because only Allah is perfect. Confused
JinTenshi
pedant noun
1. a person who makes an excessive or inappropriate display of learning.
2. a person who overemphasizes rules or minor details.
3. a person who adheres rigidly to book knowledge without regard to common sense.

Source : www.dictionary.com

I totally disagree with GSIS. Don't throw in your own religion here. Even Allah is not perfect I'm sure. Nothing is. Period.

Perfectionist DOES NOT make excessive or inappropriate display of learning, nor do they overemphasize rules or minor details. We merely wish to make the detail better and follow a certain set of rule strictly in order to achieve self-discipline for perfection.

We do not just adhere rigidly to book knowledge, we twist and use them as we please. We use our common sense, we bend things and make them perfect. That's the art. To make things better. Perfectionism.
tidruG
I agree with JinTenshi

Perfectionists are not pedantic.
They don't look only at the minor details.
Probably, no perfectionist is a complete perfectionist.
Besides, something can be perfect if it does something in an extremely suitable manner, irrespective of how imperfect it looks, etc etc.
Arnie
Funny how I started a topic on this in the Dutch forums without knowing this one existed. Unfortunately it didn't really catch on (so yes I am taking this opportunity to advertize Mr. Green)

Perfectionism turns out to be a lot more problematic as suggested here, when it comes to cooperation with other people.
JinTenshi
Arnie wrote:
Funny how I started a topic on this in the Dutch forums without knowing this one existed. Unfortunately it didn't really catch on (so yes I am taking this opportunity to advertize Mr. Green)

Perfectionism turns out to be a lot more problematic as suggested here, when it comes to cooperation with other people.


Indeed, sometimes we want something so badly to be perfect, to be done in the way we wish it to, it does wear out other people's patience. Cooperation could be quite hard to achieve.
achowles
To me perfection is perhaps a subjective term whereas flawless is not.

For something to be perfect, it has to be perfect for you. Flaws may be present, but that is a part of what makes it perfect for you. Such as personality quirks in a person that you find cute. It would be hard to elaborate on that.

Flawlessness is much more simple to define in theory, but perhaps harder to achieve in practice. For something to be flawless it must do what is intended of it without possible fault or concession.

That's my take on it anyway.
The-Nisk
The idea of perfection I got from reading Count Monte Kristo....he was the closest thing to being the perfect man ever!

Perfection is the ultimate goal...which will never be reached. not In A life-span of a simple human.

But no matter how pointless it is, I'm going to try Very Happy
I mean fighting is sometime pointless or hopeless, but you don't see people giving up do you?
"Life's about a journey not the destination".
alekazam
i think that all perfectionists should see being a perfectionist as a good thing, but its also good to let things happen and go with the flow.things work out better when you just go with the flow.

dont get me wrong there are plus sides to being a perfectionist.perfectionists can accomplish anything they set there mind to and or have an interest in.but trying to perfect is stressfull.philisophicallly speaking...let go.out
tidruG
alekazam wrote:
perfectionists can accomplish anything they set there mind to and or have an interest in

Well, that shouldn't be said of perfectionists only. Pretty much anyone who sets their mind to something and works towards it in a systematic manner can achieve it.

What sets perfectionists apart from others is the fact that they want to do things perfectly down to the last detail. This does not necessarily mean that all perfectionists pursue the result until the end. If you read my first post, you'll notice how I mentioned that sometimes, when I don't get the intermediate results right, I stop working. That's not a good thing, eh?
deanhills
tidruG wrote:
sometimes, when I don't get the intermediate results right, I stop working. That's not a good thing, eh?
I had the same problem at one stage when I was a Managing Editor of a small Journal. After an interview I would have something in my mind, but when it did not come out perfectly as it should, I would find myself procrastinating, or doing a million other things instead of that one writing project. I have to work through many drafts before I'm satisfied with the end product. I'm still like that, but found the more experienced I am, the easier it is to get a handle on the "not doing anything" instead of "struggling with it until perfection stage".

I don't think there is a cure for it. Just part of one's personality that one probably needs to accept and embrace.
Dennise
Perfectionism can be a good and bad thing.

It depends what one strives to be perfect at and having the wisdom to know just when to be perfect and when to let things slide a little.

A wise doctor will demand perfectionism when doing surgery, but back off when building sand castles at the beach.

As always, balance and moderation in all things are clues to achievement and happiness.
deanhills
Dennise wrote:
A wise doctor will demand perfectionism when doing surgery, but back off when building sand castles at the beach.
Has to be most people's worst nightmare. A surgeon who is not successful at being a perfectionist. They may aim at being perfectionists, but could be unsuccessful due to the awesome stress of striving to be perfect at what they do.
Ankhanu
Perfectionism is a lot like other things, great in moderation. Most perfectionists I've encountered, however, have not perfected, nor strive to perfect, moderation; it's almost always an extreme behaviour.
Perfectionism can push us to success, but it can also lead to immense failure. While it can push us to pay attention to details and get something right, so too can it cause myopia such that the larger picture is lost to details, and can lead to self-alienation in the pursuit of getting one thing right at the expense of all others. If curbed to bring about solid results before becoming obsession, perfectionism can be a great thing... but that curbing is a rare thing.</ramble>


Fine example of perfectionism gone awry: George Lucas. No idea when to call it quits.
_AVG_
I would say Perfectionism is only good insofar as it is restrained. It's a good thing to keep improving something until it is very good or "perfect" but at the same time, one must realize that nothing is PERFECTLY perfect, and cannot ever be made so. Hence, a perfectionist should not be so radical as to never be satisfied but should realize that after a point, he has reached his limits. While he should indeed try to improve even these in the long run, in the short run, he should realize that there is nothing he can do to improve them. So I would conclude by saying that a perfectionist shouldn't be too much of a perfectionist i.e. he/she should "let it go" once limitations are stretched. If a perfectionist is too much of a perfectionist, in my opinion, perfectionism borders on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Bikerman
tidruG wrote:

My question is...
How do you view perfectionism?
Do you think it's good because it makes you keep improving something?
Do you think it's bad because a highly perfectionist person may never really be satisfied with the end result?
We should start with a consideration of terms. A perfectionist is, presumably, one seeking perfection. But we normally mean more than that, I think, when the term is used. It normally denotes someone who is meticulous in most or all things that they do.
My view of its utility and desirability is that desirability is inversely proportional to 'intensity'. By that I mean that if one is truly seeking perfection then that is undesirable, but if one is seeking a much lesser 'version' of 'perfect' then that is, I believe, desirable - 'a pride in one's work' would be another way of saying it.

'Perfect' is, I think, an abstraction. It cannot be defined meaningfully, without resorting to subjectivity, and even then the context has to be strictly and narrowly defined. To seek absolute perfection, therefore, is to seek a subjective ideal. That is unattainable in anything other than a personal/subjective sense. Sure, one might accomplish/create something which, in one's own view, was perfect, but objectively that view itself is suspect. Doing something always, in my experience, leads to the knowledge that it can be done better.

As an example, consider juggling. I can juggle a little. Give me 3 balls and I can do a fair few tricks - including quite advanced ones like Mills-mess (for the cognscenti).
Can I do a perfect 3 ball 'straight' juggle? Certainly I can make a pretty consistent pattern [[for non-jugglers, imagine a rectangle formed by drawing a line between the hands of the juggler to form the base, with the sides extending to the height of the juggler's eyes. A good pattern is formed when the flight of the balls form two consistent curves which peak at the top of the rectangle]] - so if I define 'perfect' in objective terms and narrow my scope to 'pattern' then I can get close to, maybe even achieve, perfection.
But then I have to consider aesthetics - how long do I hold, after the catch? How 'looping' should the toss be? How fast should I cycle it? My notion of perfect is, in this context, variable, and changes everytime I juggle. Seeking perfection in this wider context would require obsession. Furthermore it would be self-defeating, since the target recedes at the pace of my advance towards it - the more I practice the more I see ways in which it could be better.
tidruG
@Bikerman

  1. I agree with your point that perfection is inherently subjective. As you said, the more you consider, the more criteria or details you can find which you need to 'perfect' before calling the whole thing perfect.
  2. For the sake of discussion on this thread, then, let's assume that there's a finite limit for perfection that most people define. In a game of bowling, for example, a perfect game could be defined as simplistically as getting 360 points on the board.
  3. Having assumed that perfection is, therefore, a defined target for one, then what are your thoughts on chasing it?


In your case, I think, you've clearly defined that you cannot perceive a finite limit to perfection:

Quote:
the target recedes at the pace of my advance towards it - the more I practice the more I see ways in which it could be better.

So, in your case, is it an exercise in futility trying to achieve perfection?

And further, my next question would be ... in the art of trying to achieve perfection (without consideration to whether you achieve it or not), is it worthwhile that you improve something to an extent that no one else has before, and consequently, improve the way the rest of the world does something?

I think better in concepts, ideas and abstractions, and it might be difficult for me to come up with examples, but I'll try. If you're making a can of Coke, figuring out the idea thickness of the can, or the composition of the material to be used on the lid so as to open the can easily, etc.
Bikerman
tidruG wrote:
Quote:
the target recedes at the pace of my advance towards it - the more I practice the more I see ways in which it could be better.

So, in your case, is it an exercise in futility trying to achieve perfection?
Well, yes in the sense that you will never acheive it and no in the sense that aiming for an unattainable target can be (though isn't always) a route to improvement.
Quote:
And further, my next question would be ... in the art of trying to achieve perfection (without consideration to whether you achieve it or not), is it worthwhile that you improve something to an extent that no one else has before, and consequently, improve the way the rest of the world does something?
Certainly. The question would be, however, whether one is best aiming for perfection or aiming to produce the best ever - no doubt it depends on the individual. Personally I think that aiming to be/produce the best ever would motivate me more than trying for perfection....
inoshi
Generally, bad, because the inference is that it is not done with awareness, a kind of disablility. I would use other words to describe a person who brought perfectionism to their activities with awareness.

Confused

Inoshi
c'tair
I believe it is good. Sometime people view perfectionists as sick in the head, as obsessed maniacs or something but it's those people that push the barriers of what we know or what we can do.

In my eyes, if you call someone a perfectionist, you're admitting to being lazy Razz
ocalhoun
c'tair wrote:
I believe it is good. Sometime people view perfectionists as sick in the head, as obsessed maniacs or something but it's those people that push the barriers of what we know or what we can do.

In my eyes, if you call someone a perfectionist, you're admitting to being lazy Razz

You're missing the downside, where perfectionism can delay or even completely block the completion of a project (because it isn't done 'till it's perfect), or when obsessing about perfecting one thing detracts attention from other important things.
deanhills
ocalhoun wrote:
c'tair wrote:
I believe it is good. Sometime people view perfectionists as sick in the head, as obsessed maniacs or something but it's those people that push the barriers of what we know or what we can do.

In my eyes, if you call someone a perfectionist, you're admitting to being lazy Razz

You're missing the downside, where perfectionism can delay or even completely block the completion of a project (because it isn't done 'till it's perfect), or when obsessing about perfecting one thing detracts attention from other important things.
I guess the ideal is to have a team that works with half perfectionists and half normal people (whatever the definition of normal is supposed to be) and then get them to cooperate with one another in a balanced average?
ilmkidunya
here I would like to share one thing that if you think that now we are perfect and achieve every thing, I think there is no mean of further struggle, so the term perfectionism is very good to improve ourselves because there are always more interesting things to learn and do.
Hemingway committed suicide because he thought that my aim of life is just to get nobel prize and after it he was thinking that there is nothing to do for him in the life so he should die...... Sad
kta_fh
Perfectionism is bad. Try to enjoy the ride instead!

I speak of experience here Embarassed
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