From the outset I have to declare that cooking is something I really enjoy and I am really enjoying the current series of MasterChef. However, in watching those putting their heart and soul into winning the coveted title, I have become concerned with the frequency and wide use of the word perfect by not only the contesting cooks but by the three gentleman hosting the show and their guest chefs.
There are two things that have stuck with me over the years; one is a quote that I picked up from somewhere which is “in this life perfection will elude us all” and the title of the book written by J. Clayton Lafferty, the designer of a range of Human Synergistics instruments, Perfectionism: A Sure Cure for Happiness in which Lafferty explored 9,000 cases of perfectionism to understand this damaging behaviour and its effects.
Some may say that those competing in MasterChef are using the word in a colloquial context, and that’s probably true in some instances; but it’s the frequency of its use that concerns me. It suggests it may be an early warning sign of a level of neuroses that occurs when people allow their achievements to define who they are. They then often experience deep unhappiness over their achievements because they set such high standards for themselves which they pursue at the expense of everything else. Unfortunately, this is also the kind of perfectionism that is often glorified in media and sport, and in some instances in the cultures that are shaped in organisations where an unhealthy attachment to results is made to seem like the norm and as a consequence in extreme cases people fear failure and mistakes.
Johnson and Smith offer insight into how perfectionism takes root. “Although the science is imperfect, perfectionism appears to blossom from some combination of genetic predisposition, parental behaviour or modelling, and sociocultural factors. In addition to modelling emotional distress and anxiety about their own performance, there is evidence that perfectionist parents are more critical, demanding, and less supportive of their children. Perfectionist parents may use affection and approval as a reward for flawless performance. When children are imperfect or make an error, the parent’s obvious disappointment or anxiety will be interpreted as rejection.”
If you recognise the presence of perfectionism here are few tips that may be helpful:
- Accept that being perfect is self-defeating as it blocks becoming better through consistent and continuous improvement
- Be less demanding of yourself and others
- Have a clear vision of the end state and then set realistic goals and standards
- Embrace mistakes, as an old teacher of mine once said “you will be right or learning”
- Rather than beat yourself up over errors learn from them and correct
- Acknowledge your achievements and celebrate the small and large wins along your journey
- Maintain a balanced perspective; understand that your work and chosen profession is only part of who you are, don’t ignore your health, make time for relationships and most of all value yourself.
I doubt that those competing on MasterChef will read this but if they do; consider, as you compete, is what you prepared ‘fit for purpose’ and do you consider what you have done to be your personal best? If you answer yes, be satisfied and proud of what you have achieved.
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