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  • There is a kind of person who seems, at first glance, to benefit from an admirable degree of self-motivation, thoroughness and drive.

  • They are up at dawn, they rarely take holidaysthey are always sneaking in an extra hour or two of work.

  • Their bosses are highly impressedthey are constantly promoted, their grades have been excellent since primary schoolthey never miss an appointment or turn in a piece of work that is less than stellar.

  • We like to say that such a person has high standards; we might even anoint them with the term 'perfectionist.'

  • It might seem churlish to locate any problems here. Why complain about a somewhat overzealous devotion to perfection in a troubled and lackadaisical world?

  • There could surely be nothing too awful about high exactitudeWhat could be so imperfect about perfectionism?

  • The concern is not so much with the work of the perfectionists, (its recipients are in a privileged position), as with the state of their soul.

  • Perfectionism does nottragicallyspring first and foremost from any kind of love of perfection in and of itself.

  • It has its origins in a far more regrettable feeling of never being good enough.

  • It is rooted in self-hatredsparked by memories of being disapproved of or neglected by those who should more fairly have esteemed us warmly in childhood.

  • We become perfectionists from a primary sense of being unworthy; uninterestingflawed, a disappointment, a letdown, a nuisance.

  • So powerful is this sense, so appalling is it in its pressure on our psyches, we are prepared to do more or less anything to expunge it:

  • working at all hours, currying favor with authority, doing twice as much as the next personthese are the tools with which we seek to cleanse our apparently shamefully undeserving selves.

  • One part of the mind promises the other that the completion of the next challenge will finally usher in peace.

  • We can be very good at pretending that our ambitions are sane.

  • But our work has a Sisyphean dimension.

  • No sooner have we rolled our working boulder up the hillthan it will tumble back down again.

  • There is never going to be a point of rest or a lasting feeling of completion.

  • We arein truthill rather than driven.

  • We aren't interested in perfect work at all.

  • We are trying to escape from a feeling of being awful people, and work simply happens to be the medium through which we are striving to grow tolerable in our own eyes.

  • But because our problem didn't begin with work, nor can work ever prove the solution.

  • Our real goal is not, as we think, to be an ideal employee or professionalit is to feel acceptable.

  • But responsibility for a sense of acceptance cannot be handed over to our bosses or customers, or a ceaselessly demanding capitalist system.

  • These will never let us rest easy because it is in their nature, without any evil intent, always to demand more.

  • We need to shift our sense of where our drive is coming from.

  • We are not unnaturally interested in working perfectly.

  • We are laboring under an unusually intense impression that we are dreadful people—a problem for which working harder cannot be the answer.

  • We need to allow ourselves to imagine that we deserved to be accepted from the start, and that it cannot forever be our fault in our minds that we are not.

  • It is not up to us to try to prove that we have a right to exist.

  • It is asking too much of ourselves to have to experience a referendum on our legitimacy every time we hand in a report, every exam we have to pass, every customer we have to serve.

  • Working well is, naturally, an admirable goal.

  • But it becomes a symptom of a mental perturbation when it becomes the cover for a secret aspiration to correct a deficit of early love.

  • We should welcome an ability to tolerate periods of lazinessnot because we are congenitally idle, but because it is a sign that we have learnt to speak more kindly to ourselves,

  • and to be appropriately angry with those who could notat the outset, accept us for who we were without a surfeit of trophies and prizes.

  • Follow the link on your screen now to explore our range of books, games, and gifts, all designed to help you better understand yourself.

There is a kind of person who seems, at first glance, to benefit from an admirable degree of self-motivation, thoroughness and drive.

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