FLAME University


FLAME in the news

Opinion: Quest for perfection

www.telanganatoday.com | December 28, 2023

Since perfection relies heavily on comparison, there is a difference between what we have done and what is considered the best

Perfection is the state of being complete and correct in every way” (Cambridge Dictionary). The meaning of the word perfect is also a state that most of us aim to achieve. But is anyone capable of perfection? A 2019 article by Rebecca Knight in the Harvard Business Review called perfectionism a double-edged sword.

Perfectionism is a complex, multi-dimensional personality construct (Hewitt & Flett 2002). Studies have shown that people who have claimed to be high on perfectionism usually exhibit unusually high and often unattainable standards of performance, constant fear of failure and rejection, are extremely self-critical and never quite content with their achievements (Azevedo et al, 2010). This can be understood as a concept that starts as helpful and constructive but becomes maladaptive over time for various reasons.

Irrespective of who we are or what we do, a lot of us try our best to complete our work with the utmost finesse. However, there is always scope for improvement. But the fact remains that this scope for improvement is never-ending. The concept of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change, modify and adapt both its functional and structural mechanisms (Voss et al, 2017), shows us how the brain can never reach stagnation, meaning that we can always improve. At the same time, there is no standard for perfection.

Getting Better

It is not a scale that can define our capabilities, which leads to a vicious cycle because there isn’t an end to getting better. Due to this, the standards keep getting higher with time and people feel even more pressured to complete tasks faster and better. People compare themselves with others whose tasks have received better credit and try to adapt their working style to their jobs, which isn’t supported by their own strengths and skill sets. This leads to further demotivation and the eventual fear of getting laid off at workplaces in the current times.

In India alone, 76% of people at work say that their stress has affected their work quality inversely due to increased expectations (The Economic Times, 2023). A Towers Watson Survey conducted in 2014 also showed that around 37% of participants did not know what was expected of them either. Additionally, the concept of hustle culture has also significantly risen, increasing the workload, stress and expectations from employees, giving rise to mental health problems. A study conducted by Holden and Jeanfreau in 2021, found that both high expectations from ourselves and external persons are correlated positively to burnout and secondary traumatic stress.

Race to Win

Industries with multiple competitors strive to be the best and dominate the markets. Monopolies and oligopolies are difficult to get into due to relatively reduced job opportunities, again leading to competition to get into these companies. Every single type of organisation thus has something to beat, and ultimately, there is a race to win. However, simply winning a competition or a race need not mean perfection either. In 2020, Dang et al found that when people are faced with the irritation of not meeting their expectations, they become irritable and this leads to disruptive, antisocial behaviour. Building on ego depletion theory, Hussain et al, 2021, also found that those who expect perfectionism from their peers often show incivility towards their co-workers, especially when they don’t have the energy to empathise with them. This prevents people from having a collaborative attitude, which doesn’t allow for the merging of strengths between employees and teammates.

Two surveys showed that for leaders whose main priority is empowering their employees (servant leaders), expecting perfection from themselves can be beneficial. However, on the other hand, leaders who expect perfection from others and (or) are expected to be perfect show behaviours that are controlling (Otto et al, 2021). People with anxious-avoidant interaction styles refrain from attempting anything new, whereas those with dependent interaction styles tend to continuously require validation from others, so they don’t make any decision alone (Steinert et al, 2021). These refrains of human individuality and creativity are great losses to the company’s growth, development and innovation.

Negative Emotions

A lot of negative emotions faced while expecting perfection from ourselves and expected perfectionism from others stem from the fear of being negatively evaluated. Since perfection relies heavily on comparison, there is a difference between what we have done and what is considered the best. If we reach stagnation in improvisation, there is nothing left for us to work on. Life can become monotonous and we will miss out on new experiences. Even when we humans perceive that we have perfected something, we tend to look for other work because we need variety.

Most importantly, people must realise that perfection is simply hypothetical. It does not exist. It never has and never will. Yes, it is something that keeps us going and motivated. But are we trying to reach perfection or just beating our competitors in the game? The capitalistic world that we live in has done its best to convince us that we are not adequate beings and that no matter what we do, we will always lack something. The workplace is not a safe place for many due to various reasons. Ironically, the constant “on” culture has left most of us in the switched “off” mode where we either wait for the next weekend or vacation. A structure that helps, supports and encourages people and employees to be their best without sacrificing their peace and health must be the ultimate goal for both employees and employers. No matter the overly toxic and ridiculous statements and quotes floating around in social media about work, it is very important to remember that work is a part of our life, not our whole life!

This article has been co-authored by Ankita Anand, Undergraduate Student, FLAME University and Prof. Moitrayee Das, Faculty of Psychology, FLAME University.

(Source:- https://telanganatoday.com/opinion-quest-for-perfection )