Being Perfect

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.

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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.

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:

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.

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:

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 This program is called ‘Being Perfect’.

Voice 2 

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


Do you try to do things perfectly? Do you think it is good to try to be perfect?


Avatar Spotlight
said on July 03, 2014

thank your writer about “Bening Perfect” so much! i was enjoy when listened this toppic. it hepls me to realize that how do I live for my life. Actually, I am a rather perpectionist, I always hope that myself have a good job. I think a good job is that bring me a high salary in a big company and have many chance to development personally. I usually feel stress. so now,i have work in medial company in my country but it doesn’t respond my demand until i listen this Spotlingt’s program.

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said on July 05, 2014

I suppose the effort being perfect in any case may be a sort of obsession that evidently represents a mental disorder. The permanent demanding of perfectionism either from self or from other certainly can have the negative effects mainly as harming, destroying the relationship in the humans’ society but even, for example, in the married life or a family.
Fortunately there is a possibility the perfectionists can alter their mind during the life to realize trying to be perfect is not the most important factor in humans’ being. I assume each of these people is able to see the perfection is not always necessary but it sometimes can be harmful, undesirable. We should také people around us such as they are, it is sure.
Thanks for interesting topic!

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said on September 11, 2015

It’s a good topic “perfectionist” I believed that long years ago I wanted to be better everything , It’s impossible. Thank you to know me but this is not want to say that I let to fight and work hard for my goals.

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said on January 07, 2016

Thank for you interesting topic. In the past, I used to be a perfectnist. I did everything on a high expectation and I always want them must to be perfect. I also expected from the orther, sometimes I feel my emotion depend on them too much. This situation lasted for a long, each time I get a bad result, I feel very dissapointed and I don’t have any excitement to do other things, although I think it isn’t worth at all. And each time I get bad darling from the people, I dissapointed about myself although I don’t wrong things.  And I have gradually realize, the perfectism make my life unhappily, my emotion down, and my mind doesn’t clear. So I have change from that, I still try to work hard, but in a happy state, I don’t expect from the other too much, I spent time for myself and enjoy my life and It’s very great.

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said on January 19, 2017

Each of us was born and grows up. We are cared for, taught and educated to become good persons of family and community. We do beautiful good things. We keep away from not good things. We love life and everyone. We are responsible to life and everyone. We love beautiful good things. Beautiful good things exist. We learn and train to become better every day. We learn and train so that we can do beautiful good things. Not good things affect life negatively. Not good things need to be pushed away.

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said on January 20, 2017

Hello, i listened to this program. I new that it speak about being perfect but I don’t understand details in I beleave speaking to somebody.
Thanks .

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said on January 20, 2017

Thanks for your topic today.
I do try to be perfect although many times I ask myself, why do I have to? I know that I don’t need to be perfect, my family doesn’t ask me to do so, but I can’t controll myself. Whenever I have low grades or I feel like my behavior is not good, I become sad and keep thinking about it. Thanks to this video, I have a chance to look back to myself and change my mind. Now that I think about it, I’m being perfect whenever I know how to accept myself.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on January 21, 2017

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the questions above
Date: Saturday 21, January 2017
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Anne Muir, Marina Santee, Rena Dam, and Ryan Geertsma:

At first, I want to thank you for bringing us readers and learners of English more one great article, thanks!
Yes, I do. I always try to do everything in a perfect way. Yes, I do. It is very important to know that anything that is done by a person or an employee will be done in a perfect way. So, that is what the boss hopes from their employees.
For example; I have been working at Clinic hospital for 20 years. So, my Director boss, my Doctor boss , and my nurse boss hope from me and other nurses to make the best to the patients.
However, I have to do everything in a perfect way.
Besides, I work in intensive care to take care of human people who are very seriously ill or injured. So,  nothing should be wrong. If something be wrong, that mistake can bring a terrible action to the patients’ health situation.
Therefore, in this case perfectionism is welcome to in our intense care.

God bless you
Severino Ramos

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Vy Nguyen
said on February 01, 2017

Thanks for the post. It’s helped me make clear more about kinds of perfectionism.
In my opinion, being perfect and careful in your work, your study are always good for everyone. However, doing something over is not good, specifically in this case is perfectionism. Because it makes you feel stressed, accidentally you put pressure on yourself so that you have no motivation to enhance your knowledge and skills. For perfectionism people, they need to change themselves, be open-minded and look at the other side of the world. This world is only beautiful when it is not perfect :)

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said on January 21, 2018

This article is very great. It expressed a lot of perspective of perfectionism. It helps me experience many things in life :D

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said on January 24, 2018

I did not understand axactly 2 sentenses in this lesson. Please explain more clear. Thank.

1. I sat in judgment on life itself

2. they are made clear by the environment.”

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said on January 25, 2018

It’s a good topic,Thank you Spotlight