Every problem should have an ideal solution – and it is intolerable when one can’t be found.
Naturally, when faced with one of life’s inevitable problems, we want a good solution. This is quite rational – and only becomes a problem when we escalate our desire for such a solution to a demand. Sometimes there is not a ‘good’ solution available – only a choice between less than desirable options. We can make the problem even worse if we believe that not only is a ‘good’ solution required – but an ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ one. How many of life’s problems have ‘ideal’ solutions?
Demanding ‘ideal’ solutions can lead to many problems:
Constant dissatisfaction with oneself and one’s circumstances.
Lower productivity: if you spend too much time on one problem, this means less time for others.
Avoidance: an even worse consequence of perfectionism is putting off solving problems because there is no apparent ‘ideal’ solution.
Resistance to change: an increasing feature of modern life is change, which carries with it the need to adapt and find new ways of dealing with events and circumstances. Demanding impossible perfection may lead to putting one’s head in the sand.
Several distortions of reality may be involved with your perfectionism. Black and white thinking (also called ‘all-or-nothing thinking’) is common. You view things in extremes: total success v. total failure, superb v. lousy, right v. wrong, perfect v. useless. Over-generalising can lead you to think that because high standards are possible, ‘perfection’ is too; or that one or a few mistakes means you are ‘always making mistakes.’
The real problem, though, is demanding – jumping from the belief that because perfection is possible, therefore you should or must achieve it – coupled with the idea that if you do not, this reflects on your self-worth (self-rating) or will lead to dire consequences and unbearable discomfort (awfulising and discomfort-intolerance).