Views & Reviews From the Frontline

The pursuit of imperfection

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 01 August 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4780
  1. Des Spence, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. destwo{at}

Tall, young, slim, bright, sporty, polite, athletic, controlled, musical, socially polished, good looking, sensible, and obedient, with straight white teeth: these traits of perfection are the aspirations of many parents and adults alike. And medicine is a candle to the perfect and perfectionism—a perfect degree, status, job, and career. But time is life’s great leveller, slowly turning, shaking, and unravelling all our misguided youthful aspirations, laying waste to perfection.

And perfectionist traits are particularly vulnerable to attrition in the mêlée of medicine. The unrealistic expectations of a medical career make many doctors …

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