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Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN

Do you want to be perfect? Do you get angry when life is not perfect? Spotlight looks at people who try to make everything perfect.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Anne Muir.

Voice 2

And I’m Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 3

“My driver’s license came up for renewal. I needed to take a written test of the traffic laws. For days, I studied a little book of all the rules. My boyfriend David would try to persuade me to spend time with him. He wanted me to join him for a walk or to go to a party or even just to talk. I told him I could not take the time. Of course, I got perfect marks on the test. I ran to tell David. “My love,” he said, “why would you want to do that?” It was not the response I had expected. Suddenly I understood that I had sacrificed a great deal for a test that was not very important. I had spent days studying for it that I could have spent in much better ways.”

Voice 1

This story is from Rachel Naomi Remen. She is from the United States. In that country, every driver must take a written test to get a driving license. But this test is not difficult. And the driver only needs to pass the test. A perfect result does not matter! Remen’s efforts to study were extreme – and unnecessary. This was a sign that Remen had a problem.

Voice 2 

Today, Remen is a doctor who studies human health and emotions. She also calls herself a “recovering perfectionist.” That means she used to be a perfectionist, but she is trying not to be one now. She tells the story of her driving test to show the problems of trying to be perfect. What is a perfectionist? Why was it so important to Remen to get a perfect result on her driving test? Today’s Spotlight is on being perfect.

Voice 1

Perfectionism is a very complex behaviour. It is part of a person’s character or personality. Perfectionists always try to do everything perfectly – without any mistakes, errors or faults. Some perfectionists may expect other people around them to be perfect too. On her website, Dr. Remen says:

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Photo by Allef Vinicius
Voice 3

“Before I began recovering from perfectionism I felt that I was always falling short. And so was everyone else. Who we were and what we did was never quite good enough. I sat in judgment on life itself. Perfectionism is the belief that life is broken.”

Voice 2 

Many cultures place a high value on working to achieve perfect results. It can be good to always aim to be excellent. For example, some sports people may be perfectionists. They work hard for the best possible result. They try to perform perfectly in a competition. People also think the famous artist Michelangelo was a perfectionist. This quality probably helped him create his amazing works of art. Sometimes we even depend on the high expectations of perfectionists. For example, when a specialist is performing a surgery on our hearts, we would like it to be perfect.

Photo by Dries Augustyns
Voice 1 

But perfectionism can often have negative results. Some people feel that they need to be perfect. They have very high expectations for themselves. Perfectionists measure their worth, or value, by how well they do everything. This kind of perfectionism can even become a mental disorder. Experts have identified three different kinds of perfectionism.

Voice 2 

The first kind of perfectionism is based on the self. This is when a person requires himself to be perfect. Then, when he fails to do this, he is very disappointed. A man named Paul told his story about this kind of perfectionism to the Mental Health Foundation:

Voice 4 

“I had been trying to do too much, too well and trying to please too many people. I had been expecting too much of myself for too long and putting too much pressure on myself. I was creating too much stress. That is a lot of ‘too muches’ for one person. I stopped looking forward to anything. I felt like I was useless and hopeless.”

Voice 1 

Another kind of perfectionist expects other people to be perfect. People in relationships with the perfectionist often feel that they are always being criticized. They may feel that they can never be good enough to be loved. Kathy Miller is a perfectionist. She gives a small example of how her husband was never perfect enough for her:

Voice 5 

“One night I returned home from shopping. My husband, met me at the door, smiling. He led me into the kitchen and announced, “I washed the dishes for you!” As I put my arms around him and said, “Thank you!” I looked over his shoulder. I noticed pieces of food and drops of liquid on the table. “But you have not cleaned the table!” I thought. “You have not finished the job!”

Voice 2 

A third kind of perfectionism relates to social conditions. This kind of perfectionist believes that other people expect her to be perfect. This kind of perfectionism often begins when children have very demanding parents. Doctor Randy Frost has studied perfectionism for many years. He tells the magazine Psychology Today:

Photo by Icons8 Team 
Voice 6 

“Overly demanding and judgemental parents put a lot of pressure on children to achieve. Our studies show that is connected to perfectionism. Sometimes the parent is happy only when the child achieves something or spends a lot of time working at something. The parent’s high expectations are not spoken out loud but they are made clear by the environment.”

Voice 1 

All three of these kinds of perfectionism can have negative effects. Perfectionism can lead to other emotional problems such as depression, using too much alcohol or other drugs, eating disorders or even suicide. Perfectionism can also be connected to other physical problems such as stress problems and heart conditions. However, there are many ways to reduce the need to be perfect. Ann Smith wrote a book called “Overcoming Perfectionism.” She gives some good ideas about having healthier expectations:

Voice 7 

“The change starts with acknowledging our humanness. We learn to accept the best and worst of who we are. Some things about us will never change. Other parts of ourselves may be altered by life experiences. In the meantime, you are good enough for today – perfectly imperfect.”

Voice 2 

It is not easy to stop being a perfectionist. Remember Kathy Miller who was not happy with her husband, even when he was helping her? She says that she is trying not to expect perfection. Her Christian faith has helped her to accept her husband, and herself. Miller writes:

Voice 5 

“Giving myself grace has been a slow growth process. But I believe that God understands our mistakes. And he is willing to forgive them. We can stop expecting too much from ourselves and others.  You and I are already perfect in God’s sight. We have nothing to prove. We are accepted.”

Voice 1 

The writers of this program were Marina Santee and Rena Dam. The producer was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called ‘Being Perfect’.

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you try to do things perfectly? Do you think it is good to try to be perfect? Write your answer in the comments below.

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