The perfectionist

5 décembre 2016 par jerome lecoq

You know him(her), he's the one who always have an objection, although his arguments don't stand. Actually, he doesn't object things, his dissatisfaction is just a way of being. People are never good enough for him, he always has something to reproach to them, he never applauses for a success because luck and fate have a lot to do in it he thinks, and there's no need to applaud for chance? Is there? Don't try to persuade him of anything, he will use his chronicle dissatisfaction to drive you mad. What could almost satisfy him is to drive people mad, those fools who pretend they can satisfy him. He then wouldn't feel alone in his dissatisfaction. Mick Jagger already sang 50 years ago "I can get no satisfaction". 

This might be the flip side to the consumer society coin: as everyone is consuming and using, nobody feels plenty or satisfied. Frustration, addiction and desire (which is conscience of a lack or a deficiency) all fuel the need to consume. The society has dissatisfaction and needs at its roots. But be there as it may some of us are less easily made content than the others in our daily lives.

It is dissatisfaction which drives innovation and improvements.

But let’s see first the positive side of dissatisfaction. It is dissatisfaction which drives innovation and improvements. As you are dissatisfied with a situation you tend to mobilize yourself to change it, to take it to the next level. It fuels competition as customers want to maximize their satisfaction by choosing the best product or service, it fuels entrepreneurs who base their venture on solving a frustrating problem with the belief that they are not the only ones to be frustrated by it.

On a personal level dissatisfaction is also a powerful engine to self-improvement, to take action so that your satisfaction goes higher. Reaching well-being means for humans erasing the sources of suffering as Montaigne nicely put it. But then chronicle dissatisfaction is a source of pain and at the same time the fuel for reducing the pain. So how to break this vicious circle?

The problem with the perfectionist or the chronically unsatisfied is that his dissatisfaction prevents him from contemplating things as they are, from astonishment and amazement

The first step would be not to aim for perfection. Perfection is not from this world and the perfectionist is close to think that he has no value in comparison to what he is aiming at. The problem with the perfectionist or the chronically unsatisfied is that his dissatisfaction prevents him from contemplating things as they are, from astonishment and amazement, states of mind that children can reach quite easily for example. Isn’t it nice to allow yourself sometimes to be astonished as a child?

Although this built-in tension is a self-drive, it is also a way of closing your eyes to the beauties of the world. They were not made for our own satisfaction but we can nonetheless appreciate them.

When one regularly does something, it is generally a good bet that this person finds a benefit in it, however strange or painful this action may look. So, we want to believe that the perfectionist somehow likes or loves his dissatisfaction. At first this makes him a rather competitive, efficient and dynamic person who could be very good at what he is doing, even though his field of action might be very narrow. Second it is a person that very few would argue with, as they know that the discussion could be endless. So, the perfectionist is left alone to run his business as he wishes if he produces good results, which he is likely to. He might benefit from a good social recognition by being a fine professional, although a "pain in the a..." to work with daily. But of course, there is a flip side to this coin also: he will often be alone on a personal level. Who, friend or lover, can stand to live with someone who is never satisfied? Because the relationship itself does not provide him with satisfaction. And he suffers from it because he knows he is unfair as there is no reason the others should live up to his extremely high expectations. Actually, he is sad because he is impotent to lower the barrier of these expectations.


The problem with satisfaction as a criterion is that it is purely subjective and egotist, which comes handy when you are the client but not when you want to reflect on things.

Fortunately, for some things satisfaction is not an acceptable criterion. Take art for example: you don't want to be satisfied by a piece of art, this makes no sense. You are moved, intrigued, touched, disturbed, indifferent, repulsed but not satisfied or dissatisfied. Or take philosophy: to think you need to see the objective side of things, you need to find coherency, pertinence, depth, problems etc... This has nothing to do with your own satisfaction. The problem with satisfaction as a criterion is that it is purely subjective and egotist, which comes handy when you are the client but not when you want to reflect on things. Dissatisfaction prevents you for example from recognizing the other's ideas which might objectively be better than yours just because you are not satisfied with it. Of course, nobody likes to be proven wrong. This is nonetheless what you should learn if you want to have a fruitful conversation that could make new ideas emerge. Dissatisfaction has a lot to do with a twisted ego and could be counterproductive, however powerful the personal drive it creates.

If you want to dialog, and to work with people for that matter, you must learn to take what is given to you and to work with it, however poor, faulty or banal it may look.


If you want to dialog with people you must learn to take what is given to you and to work with it, however poor, ugly or banal it looks. And first your own ideas. The dissatisfied better be very clever and articulate if he doesn't want the others to treat him as he does. So he will prefer to keep silent because his own speech sounds stupid to him. The first object of his dissatisfaction is himself and that makes him miserable.

The perfectionist is nit-picky, he will tend to stick to minor details and not see the big picture. If it does not fit perfectly his scheme he will not take it when this is good enough to continue with.

He will tend to be very slow and to slow down collective discussion, group meetings and debatesHe will not be generous in his talking as he fears that others will give him objections that he would not help fighting until death of the opponent. He tends to attract the whole attention to his own agenda, which might be very small compared to the global problem to discuss. Most of others will not understand this nit-picker, extremely detail-oriented person and will soon be bored to talk to him. So, people will avoid him and he will find himself with no contradictors, which is of course a bad thing when it comes to innovation, creativity or healthy thinking.



Finally, we must admit that at the end the unsatisfied most likely does not like his attitude and himself. First it tires him out : he would sometimes like to take vacation from himself, to take distance from the details to have a more synthetic view of things. But he has too much to lose in it. What is at stake for the unsatisfied? To accept his imperfections, to let go of his constant will to intervene on things to twist them to fit his own vision. His greed has no boundaries, he wants everything in the world to fit at his own right place and he of course decides which place it should fit.

At last he has a divine scheme: the world would probably be better off if he could make it to his own image. And even in this case he would not be satisfied so he would constantly transform it which would make it unlivable. In the end, he will feel powerless and fall in despair, in depression, losing complete interest in the things that he might not change. This is where he will lose his drive and become indifferent to things. He could also enjoy destroying it: better destroy everything his own way then letting the others produce a dissatisfying world.

He can rebel like Mick Jagger used rock and roll to sing his dissatisfaction. In his rebellion, he could indeed become a great artist because the world is a constant source of inspiration for his dissatisfaction. Rebellion, art making is the solution for the dissatisfied: here he can create a world to his own image, perfect for him. And he can even have others for once appreciate his dissatisfaction as the engine for his artistic productions. Not someone to live by but someone whose creations are worthwhile.

Perfectionists of every country, reunite and become artists so that others could admire your work without having to enter any dialog with you. But don’t expect people to live according to your disproportionate standards.


If you're not a perfectionist and enjoyed this article, to hesitate to comment it, criticize or share it. Do you know the philosophical practice ? It will make you less a perfectionist among other benefits.