The disease called “Perfection”

8 Nov

Passionate father and blogger Dan Pearce of Single Dad Laughing has described in the most honest and sobering words a condition you won’t find in any medical manuals or textbooks. Most people with the condition suffer in silence and for some individuals the disease can be life-threatening or fatal.

There is a twelve-year-old boy buried 20 miles from where I sit because the “Perfection” that has infected the people around him infected him to the point that he deemed his own life worthless. “Perfection” pushed him to take his own life over something most of us would consider negligible in the life of any teenage boy.

Visit Dan’s blog to read The disease called Perfection in its original entirety. It’s a disease everyone can learn to recognise and cure. The following summary may be printed and inserted into your favourite diagnostic manual.

Aetiology and pathogenesis

Perfection is a highly infectious disease which can infect otherwise healthy adults and children. Transmission and infection is restricted to humans, and primarily through social vectors rather than physical contact or body fluids. Schools, neighbourhoods and workplaces are known to be high risk areas for disease transmission. Perfection is frequently found in communities in which people feel enormous amounts of pressure to always appear perfectly happy, perfectly functional, and perfectly figured. Excessive exposure to commercial television, advertising, politics and peer pressure are potential risk factors. If undiagnosed and untreated, Perfection can produce overwhelming feelings of shame, guilt or imperfection. Affected individuals may be unable to seek help from close family and friends who are already infected. Besides the possibility of transmission, comorbidity of Perfection with depression, eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse places individuals at high risk of harm to themselves and others.

Symptoms and signs

Perfection can manifest as different symptoms for each individual, depending on age, sex, duration and severity of the condition, family, cultural and religious background, and the presence of any aggravating factors. However, the majority of infected individuals suffer in silence until the disease has progressed to a critical stage. Perfection has been associated with each of the following reported cases:

  • A wife who feels trapped in a marriage to a lazy, angry, small man, but at soccer practice tells the other wives how wonderful her husband always is.
  • A husband who is belittled, unappreciated, and abused by his wife, yet works endlessly to make his marriage appear incredible to those around him.
  • A woman having an affair because she’s too afraid to confront the imperfection in her marriage.
  • A man who loathes himself for feeling unwanted attraction toward other men.
  • A mother hating herself because she only sees that every other mom around her is the perfect mother, the perfect wife, and the perfect neighbour.
  • A daughter with an eating disorder that keeps it hidden for years because she doesn’t want to be the first among her family and friends to be imperfect.
  • A twelve-year-old boy killing himself because he is ashamed that he can’t stop masturbating.

Differential diagnosis

Underdiagnosis of Perfection is frequent due to the insidious, asymptomatic nature of the disease which silently erodes quality of life. Many infected individuals manage to cope with Perfection without developing significant symptoms or signs, but remain carriers of the disease. Infection of clinicians also hiders the diagnosis and successful treatment of Perfection.

Perfection should not be confused with perfectionism. Genuinely happy people who act true to themselves do not have Perfection. It is yet unclear whether a causal relationship exists between Perfection and the absence of Happiness, or the directionality of their association.


There is a simple cure according to Pearce (2010):

Be real. Be bold about your weaknesses and you will change people’s lives. Be honest about who you actually are, and others will begin to be their actual selves around you. Once you cure yourself of the disease, others will come to you, asking if they can just “talk”. People are desperate to talk. Some of the most “perfect” people around you will tell you of some of the greatest struggles going on. Some of the most “perfect” people around you will break down in tears as they tell you how difficult life is for them. Turns out some of the most “perfect” people around us are human beings after all, and are dying to talk to another human being about it.

Self-diagnosis, early intervention and treatment with a sustained dose of honesty can effectively cure and prevent the transmission of Perfection. Immunisation is possible but its effects are usually short-lived for those who reside or work in an infected environment. Naturally acquired active immunity usually confers lifelong protection to individuals who have recovered from Perfection.

You can follow and contribute to the ongoing research in this follow-up post: The CURE for Perfection.