Studies have told us that men (okay, the confident ones) are motivated to try to pursue the highest-status woman they think they can land (more on that in another post). In past generations, this was basically about looking good and being a good homemaker, a goal that was limiting but also somewhat more attainable. Today, however, the ideal woman must not only be beautiful but educated. Not only must she be nurturing but also professionally accomplished. Not only must she be a great cook, but she's also expected to be cultured. And all in a feminine, nurturing way.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that our environment is constantly providing new goals. Relationship goals, career goals, squad goals, fitness goals, closet goals and more. We're told we can have it all, but implicit in that is that we have to have it all or we've somehow come up short. Today's woman can end up stuck on the hamster wheel, constantly trying to live up to someone else's idea of perfect. All of that constant striving can dim any girl's sparkle.
What's the cure?
Your value is non-negotiable. Know who you are and what you value about yourself. These are things that matter and are not subject to someone else's assessment of you. The partner who is right for you will appreciate those qualities. It's not about changing yourself to find that person, it's about being yourself and seeing who can keep up. So you aren't a supermodel who can discuss quantum physics while making a souffle? Very few are. Luckily, it's not a prerequisite for love. You just have to give your special qualities room to shine, unapologetically. And that starts with owning and appreciating them yourself.
Train your voice. In many cases, perfectionism is a (fruitless) coping strategy for those who don't know how to actually communicate their needs. We hope that by being better and better, we will somehow earn the things we want. it doesn't work that way. Learn to work with your partner by asking for what you want in an honest way, and you'll feel less compelled to pursue an unattainable goal.
How you feel matters. If you're feeling insecure in your relationship, that's telling you something. That strung-out feeling is your red flag that something's wrong. There are a couple of possibilities and figuring out which one you're dealing with requires being brave enough to be honest about yourself and your relationship. I always recommend reconciling with yourself first. Are you happy with where you're at? Are you being the best version of yourself? That doesn't mean being perfect (see above). It means going after big, scary goals that excite you -- things you might mess up. Things that will make you grow. And that nagging, gnawing feeling could be your inner self telling you that you're selling yourself short. Take that chance, and push yourself harder.
If you're happy with where you are, then that insecure feeling might be someone else's issues creeping into your line of vision. I've watched many friends struggle in relationships that dimmed their spirits and turned them into crazier, more anxious versions of themselves. A partner who doesn't think he is enough may cover up by nitpicking you. Recognize this for what it is (abuse) and get out. Your partner should support you, not weigh you down.
Perfectionism is often mistaken for a virtue, but it's a disease that can stop us from taking the risks we need in order to become our best selves. Give up perfect, and embrace the messy, beautiful, growing person that you are.