The Opposite of Perfection

perfectionism“The opposite of perfection is not laziness,” I think to myself as I put my schoolwork away into my backpack.

That’s a misconception I used to believe strongly: there was either perfectionism and putting in hours and hours of extra work, or laziness. There was nothing in between according to OCD. This type of black and white thinking is a common cognitive distortion created by anxiety.

After hours and hours of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) though, especially exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, I am much better at disengaging with these thoughts. As I decide to end my schoolwork  after only doing an average amount or even the minimum, my brain tries to scream, “You are lazy! Work more!” But I remind myself gently, “The opposite of perfection is not laziness.”

Laziness is an odd concept to try to quantify. If it’s not the opposite of perfection then when does someone cross over into laziness? Interestingly enough, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) would say laziness is impossible, and that’s the idea I agree with. According to DBT, everyone is always trying their best and everyone can always try harder. It’s a beautiful, dialectical concept and part of why I love DBT so much.

I also now believe sometimes it’s okay to do the minimum. Sometimes that is genuinely the more productive and efficient thing to do. I can’t count how many hours I wasted being perfectionistic on an assignment when it was already good enough. There’s a saying that “perfectionism is the enemy of good enough.”

Usually though, I think trying our best and sitting somewhere in the middle is the most ideal choice. The tricky thing though is to accept the uncertainty surrounding where this middle is and to not let ourselves get stuck trying to find the “just right” amount of work.



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