Nirvana Fallacy

Nirvana fallacy goes like this:

  1. The problem X has a perfect solution A.
  2. Therefore, imperfect yet realistic solutions B, C and D are wrong because they are inferior to the idealised A. (Link)

I suffer from this insufferable bout of Nirvana fallacy every freaking day.

For me it goes like this.

I have an essay to do. To me I am deeply anal when it comes to writing a literature essay, because since that is my major I expect a lot from myself from it. I start planning my essay early, like not solid planning that you can see on paper, but kind of like planning in my head, brainstorming for ideas.

Then I look at the questions, narrow down the scope, and plan somemore.

There will be this awkward point during my planning whereby I realize I was simply stuck. I couldn’t come up with novel intriguing ideas that was going to give me that “wow” factor that my professors spoke of with reverence. My ideas were prosaic and insipid. They were simple little mutterings of my brain when I am not thinking.

The Nirvana fallacy thus occurs for me.

  1. There is a perfect essay that exists for this assignment.
  2. Therefore, imperfect yet manageable versions of essays are unacceptable because they are inferior to my ideal A+ essay.

Truthfully, I have never gotten an A+ for an essay because of the following reasons:

  1. I expect too much from myself, and I get so stressed that I keep procrastinating.
  2. By the time I had to do the essay, it is usually a few hours before submission deadline.
  3. I am panicked and I just write whatever that comes to my mind with the que sera sera mentality.
  4. By some windfall I get an A, I am dead impressed by myself and I think hey! If I had started early I could have done better.

The sentence that is bolded is absolute bullshit.

Yes, I might have felt better about starting early, but I have come to realize that no, I will not do better just because I start earlier because I might have reached my capacities for that essay. (Besides, boast-merit aside, what is the difference between A and A+ essays? Regardless I still love literature, and I still know that at the end of the day, I can write.)

The same problem exists for any essay writing competition or works of fiction I try to create. People who know me for long knows that it is my life long ambition to be a writer. Yet, no matter how I write, I cannot feel pleased with what I have written. Oh, I could have done a better job. What a terribly layman piece of writing this is.

It took me an entire bitter week or weeks to realize that sometimes such obsession with perfection is unnecessary and exhausting. At suitable levels, perfectionism enhances performances because of the desire for improvement and betterment. At extreme levels, it inhibits productivity because I can never get past my first line of essay thinking and rethinking that there MUST be something better that I could have come out with.

The trick about this is that, I could. You could. But the trade in is the amount of time that you have spent on the essay could have easily been spent on something else that you enjoy. Like watching The Big Bang Theory. Like watching horror movies or reading my new stash of books that I hauled in from a book clearance sale.

Take it easy and don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t let inspiration and flow be impeded by a dogged pursue of a idealistic notion of perfection. It is not worth it.



  1. By creating a false dichotomy that presents one option which is obviously advantageous—while at the same time being completely implausible—a person using the nirvana fallacy can attack any opposing idea because it is imperfect. Under this fallacy, the choice is not between real world solutions; it is, rather, a choice between one realistic achievable possibility and another unrealistic solution that could in some way be “better”.

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