The Perfect Wedding
How perfectionism can ruin your perfect day—and your health.
By Lybi Ma published April 30, 2008 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
You're getting ready for your day and you want everything to be picture perfect—the gown, the flowers, the cake, the venue, your nail polish, and even the weather. And it better not rain, or the heavens will pay. That's because you have high standards and you've been planning for months and months, so of course you expect absolute flawlessness in every possible way.
Pretty soon, as your day nears, you find that you are not having a good time. Everything is wrong. The gown has a beige hue, the cake is too sweet, and the weatherman says it's going to rain. What will this do to your image and who you are? You bark at your husband to be, your mother, your sister, and even the darn dog. It's not surprising to find a bride fussing over minutia. And it's not surprising that she is driven to crazy making.
The perfectionist seems to have it all together, appearing competent and confident. However, she does not feel perfect, nor does she feel in control of her wedding or her life for that matter. This precision takes away from enjoying and engaging in the people around her. After all, that is the real point.
Taming the Beast
Granted, there are people who can tame their perfectionism. They sweat for their best work whether they're bankers or athletes and they tend to excel. But for those who cannot manage their urge for precision, they push and push only to find that they are inadequate. Nothing is ever good enough. Research from Smith College shows that perfectionism can be detrimental to one's health; these people are at risk for obsessive-compulsive disorders, heart disease, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders, high blood pressure, among other illnesses.
Origins of Miss Perfect
Some people are more prone to perfection than others. But parents can shape this trait just by withholding praise and dropping criticism. The need to please is thus internalized. Many perfectionists suffered chaotic childhoods, where they had little control over their lives. That's why a perfect child: keeps her room tidy and neat, works hard at her schooling, and bosses her siblings around. This trait then carries over into adulthood.
Make No Mistakes
What will everyone think if the forks and knives are not sitting straight on the table settings? Those who cannot tolerate flaws get upset easily. In truth, these chronic worriers see a mistake as downright failure. For this person, self-worth is often wrapped up in a perfect performance. Worse still are those who demand no mistakes from the people around them.
Best Is Best
Adhering to high standards sounds like a good thing. But often that standard is shifted higher and higher. That's what happens when a perfectionist strives for a ten at every turn—the ten turns into ever increasing numbers. According to research from Oklahoma State and the University of South Alabama, for certain people perfectionism is thought to contribute to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (all in pursuit of that perfect body).
Your Approval My Approval
Most girls want to be a princess for a day. This feeds into our love of celebrities; indeed, taking the spotlight is so fulfilling. But perfectionism propels this notion a step further: the bride becomes more and more self-focused, and in turn becomes more and more hypercritical. You are valued only if you are perfect. That superhuman image is what she seeks.
For the perfect bride in search of her perfect day, everything falls short and never up to snuff. Demanding perfection is demanding the impossible. Perfectionists cope well in times of low stress, but these people more likely to become depressed, angry, and anxious in stressful situations—and that's when things can go way wrong.
One woman recalls her brother's wedding day: "That day, I decided to wear a pendant instead of pearls as the other bridesmaids did, my sister-in-law snapped and hissed at me. In fact, she was mad at everyone and everything the entire day."