> Current Issues > Society

World’s Best Chef’s Suicide & the Poison of Perfectionism

February 7, 2016 | by Debbie Gutfreund

5 ways to combat the pressure to be perfect.

The world’s best chef, Benoit Violier, committed suicide last week at age 44, a month after earning the title. His death came the day before the renowned Michelin guide was to announce its ratings for 2016; Violier had been nervous that he would lose his restaurant's three-star rating. Benoit was known to be a relentless perfectionist even though he was patient and calm on the outside.

Benoit is survived by his 12-year-old son and his wife Brigette with whom he owned the restaurant. His suicide brought up questions about the pressures and demands of the restaurant world, but it also revealed a poison that can seep into any area of our lives. The poison of perfectionism.

Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, author of the book The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life, believes that we are all constantly bombarded with this ideal of perfection and that one of the best antidotes to perfectionism is the acceptance of our flaws, our struggles and our negative feelings. Trying to ignore what we don’t like about ourselves ends up magnifying our weaknesses and pulling our focus constantly towards them.

Here are five other antidotes we can try to combat perfectionism.

1. Recognize your intrinsic value. We each have an essential, unconditional value just by virtue of being created in the image of God. We have souls that have incredible potential. We should feel beloved and treasured by our Creator because we are His children. It helps to remind ourselves that our worth doesn't depend on what we have or even what we do. Our lives have intrinsic, infinite value.

2. Let go of the need to impress. So many of us are focused on how others see us. We fall into an endless cycle of impression management where we measure everything we do through the lens of others' opinions. But looking good is not the same as being good. And trying to impress others by chasing achievements will never bring us the joy and satisfaction of working for something that we believe in.

3. Focus on others. One of the biggest pitfalls of perfectionism is that it makes us very self-focused, constantly concerned with getting everything done just right. By focusing on connecting and helping others, we can move our attention from the limits of ourselves to the expansive ideas and needs around us.

4. Learn from mistakes. Perfectionists often see mistakes as failures that they should have and could have avoided. They become so steeped in regret that they are unable to learn anything from their mistakes. Next time you have a setback ask yourself instead: What can I learn from this? What can I do differently next time?

5. Move forward. Even if we don't have every single detail figured out, move forward and begin. Most successful endeavors start out with a great idea that adapt as obstacles arise and new strategies are developed to overcome them. Don't let perfectionism block you from taking the next step. As George Eliot so eloquently wrote: "The important work of moving this world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men."


Leave a Reply

🤯 ⇐ That's you after reading our weekly email.

Our weekly email is chock full of interesting and relevant insights into Jewish history, food, philosophy, current events, holidays and more.
Sign up now. Impress your friends with how much you know.
We will never share your email address and you can unsubscribe in a single click.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram