Many people work hard to be perfect and superficially better than other people and it’s accepted in society. But sometimes striving for perfection and being competitive can often be sources of stress and unhappiness.

They can even be factors in mental health and physical health issues. In general, it’s difficult to see the benefits of perfectionism and competitiveness in a healthy, balanced life.

These two traits are something I’ve struggled with throughout my life. I’m hard on myself and that really doesn’t mix well with being a competitive perfectionist. I personally am working to change my habits to be more happy and balanced. But, I am not going to drop all aspects of my competitiveness and perfectionism. Both of these traits have helped Evan and me work hard and achieve together. So, how can you use perfectionism and competitiveness to your advantage while staying healthy? What are some of the benefits of perfectionism and competitiveness? There are 4 main ways we use the benefits of perfectionism and competitiveness to improve our lives.

School

School is easily one of the best examples of how perfectionism and being competitive can help or harm you.

I was borderline unhealthy in the way I obsessed over academic achievement. I wanted the highest grades. Sometimes I even succeeded. In one of my exams I received the top score out of 300+ other students in the class. When I was in college, my therapist told me I needed to spend less time on schoolwork. I feel like usually adults tell you to spend more time on schoolwork. I had to limit how much I studied. This post, “How to Get Amazing Grades in College” shows a few of the ways I worked efficiently to get a high GPA in college.

One thing I did well on was to make sure I finished my assignments during the week so I’d be able to spend all weekend with Evan when he was around. But finding a balance between achievement and everything else in life is challenging. Gratefully, I am finished with undergrad and don’t have to worry about balancing school with everything else.

Evan has a healthier perspective on schoolwork. He also works hard to get high grades (which are even better than mine), but doesn’t ruminate over school. He strives for the best that he can do, not the best overall or better than other people. That mindset is what helps him be successful, still focus on academic achievement, but avoid being overly stressed or have unrealistic expectations.

Home

We both love a clean apartment.

We want ours to look clean all the time and usually it does. We have established our weekly cleaning routine, which in the long run is a lot easier. We’re not competitive in our cleanliness, but we are rather perfectionistic about it. We vacuum, mop, and basically clean everything every week. It only takes maybe an hour.

Our goal of a perfectly clean apartment saves us time and effort. If we had lower standards, we wouldn’t clean as often, so the apartment would be dirtier when we did decide to clean it, thus making it take longer and be more of an ordeal.

Work

You know in job interviews when they ask what your biggest weakness is? Every article on job interview tips I’ve read says not to say “perfectionism”. Why? Because it’s usually a good thing from an employer’s standpoint and also rather cliché.

In one of my interviews for my current job, I mentioned that I am a perfectionist, but I know in a fast-paced work environment, there are times you have to let things go even when you know you could make them better if you spend more time on them. Having that balance of striving for perfection, but knowing when to stop yourself is one of ways you can use perfectionism to your advantage in the work place. You’re viewed as a hard, meticulous worker, but not a time-waster.

Honestly, I’m still figuring out my job, so I’m not super knowledgeable on all the benefits of perfectionism and competitiveness at work. Although I suppose in this field (law) if you’re not slightly perfectionistic, you won’t do very well.

Evan on the other hand used his competitive nature to rise up through the ranks. He took on extra responsibilities and stayed focused in order to keep getting promotions. In his four years in the Marine Corps, he was promoted to sergeant. I don’t know a whole lot about military promotions and ranks, but it’s less common and takes a lot of work to make it to that rank within that limited time frame.

Exercise

As mentioned in our post, “How to Work Out Together to Become Couple Goals” we are competitive and use that to push ourselves more in the gym. Story time:

So, last week we were at the gym (shocker, I know). We were doing German Volume Training on incline bench press for some reason. I wasn’t counting how many sets we were doing because Evan was logging it on his phone.  During one set, I set the dumbbells on my lap and accidentally hit my hip with a dumbbell. I told Evan my hip hurt. He said we couldn’t finish our workout and wouldn’t tell me how many sets we were at till I said “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Since I wasn’t counting sets, I just kept going and refused to give in to his request till I started getting pretty burnt out. We ended up doing 13 sets of incline bench press because we were both stubborn and competitive.

Most of the time at the gym we just compete with ourselves, trying to lift more than we did last week. Sometimes we’re competitive with each other, but generally not with other people. Everyone at the gym is a different size and at a different level, so it does not do any good to mentally compete with other people. That’s one way we use competitiveness to improve in the gym, but avoid being so competitive that it hurts our mental health and self-esteem.

Our Tips for Utilizing the Benefits of Perfectionism and Competitiveness

  1. If you can change your mindset, which is easier said than done, shift to working towards your best rather than perfection or other people’s best.
  2. Keep a balance. If you find you’re verging towards being obsessed or making yourself unhappy because of how you’re using your perfectionism and competitiveness, re-center yourself and remember why and how you are trying to use the two traits.
  3. Remember perfection doesn’t exist.
  4. Don’t compare apples to oranges. If you’re competing inside your head with someone in completely different circumstances, you’re not helping yourself.
  5. Be careful with social media. It can be extremely difficult to keep a healthy mindset towards yourself when you’re seeing the best parts of the lives of seemingly perfect people.
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Maisy
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Recent graduate, blogger, girlfriend, dog-mom

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