When you hear the word perfectionist, you most likely think of a stereotypical type A person whose pristine appearance is only rivaled by their immaculate home, desk, and closet. But as scholar, author, and TED Talk speaker Brené Brown points out, perfectionism extends far beyond tidiness and organization.
"Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: 'If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame,'" she explains on her website. In other words, perfectionism can determine how you approach life in general; it's the belief that you'll only be happy, worthy, and validated once you land your dream job or reach a certain income bracket.
While some may view this as ambition or a strive for excellence, "Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval," writes Brown in her best-selling book Daring Greatly. "Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance. Somewhere along the way, they adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: 'I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it.' Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle."
Reading this excerpt recently made me realize that striving for a certain standard in order to "deserve" happiness and contentment is a fruitless exercise. Even though I wasn't aware of it, I was operating according to the untrue assumption that one day, I'd have it all figured out. This belief system takes the power of determining something as important as your own happiness away from you and gives it to your job title, your relationship status, or your scale—i.e., circumstances you have far less control over than your own mind.
So if you're going to give up anything to be happy, give up the idea that you only deserve it once you've accomplished A, B, or C. Life is and will always be a work in progress; happiness comes from an intrinsic sense of self-worth and confidence, rather than extenuating circumstances beyond your control.
You can shop Brown's book below, in addition to Amazon's best-selling books on happiness.