Perfectionism

By Audrey Marlene

Perfectionism

As Featured On Ezine Articles

Are you a Perfectionist?

Have you noticed that you:

  • Place excessive demands on yourself by setting too high standards?
  • Expect too much from yourself and your family?
  • Get angry when you make a mistake?
  • Feel that whatever you achieve, it's never good enough?
  • Feel terrified of being average or mediocre?
  • Find that it takes a long time to complete something because you have to get it done just right?

  • If you have answered yes to one or more of the above you may be just be a perfectionist. Does that seem to alarm you? Or maybe you have already been told this by coworkers, friends, or family members?

    Striving to be the "best that you can be" is a commendable quality. For someone who is an athlete it is important to perfect their skill and perform at the highest level. In the competitive world in which we live, it's important to aim high, to strive for greatness.. People who set high standards are typically high achievers and this requires a healthy sense of perfection.

    However, when one's level of expectations becomes obsessive, their behavior can become irrational, and self-defeating. This level of perfection can be counterproductive while creating unpleasantness and stress. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between unhealthy perfectionism and depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health problems.

    Individuals who show signs of unhealthy tendencies cannot live in the moment. Their insecurities drive them to put unreasonable, self-imposed demands that only allow them to focus on the past and their weakness and not on their strengths. There is a constant sense of urgency to protect the future. This can backfire, creating the reverse effect - procrastination and unproductivity.

    The key to aiming high while working to be your best and not show signs of obsessive perfectionism is learning how to find balance in your life. Understanding the difference between healthy and unhealthy levels helps you to examine your behaviors.

    The Causes

    What Causes Unhealthy Levels of Perfectionism?

    Both genetic and environmental factors play a role in the perfectionist personality. It can be taken to the extreme because of the intense desire to prove a point or to live up to the expectations of others.

  • Children who grows up in an environment where they were excessively praised grow up feeling pressured to maintain that standard. They grow up to feel valued based on some accomplishment.
  • Children who were put down can grow up struggling to achieve a certain level of perfection in order to feel worthy and accepted. They spend their time working to achieve perfection as their self-worth depends on it.
  • Many survivors of childhood trauma are prone to becoming perfectionists as adults. They have a strong need to control every aspect of their lives especially how others perceive them. They set ridiculously high demands on themselves because this is how they prove that they are valuable.
  • Children whose parents are very successful feel pressured to live up to the standards and expectations of their parents.
  • Children whose parents exhibited perfectionistic behaviors.
  • Someone who suffers from low self-esteem works relentlessly to achieve perfection in order to compensate for feelings of inferiority.
  • Fear of failure or making mistakes can cause someone to overcompensate by exaggerated efforts to achieve.
  • A highly competitive society makes demands on us. It creates the mindset of having to be the best. Once this mindset becomes an obsession, tendencies of perfectionism can follow.

  • If one's self-worth is dependent on the expectations of others and unrealistic goals are set, the individual can feel even worse when they fall short of their goals. This causes the individual to become more critical of self, setting in motion even more unrealistic goals and the exaggerated cycle continues. When unrealistic goals are not achieved feelings of depression, anxiety, and a series of psychological disorders can follow.

    If you feel you may be suffering from a case of perfectionism, mild or chronic, it is important to recognize what triggers your compulsion. Is it the expectations of others and a super high need to be perceived as valuable?

    Negative Consequences of Being A Perfectionist

    A perfectionistic personality has very little balance in their life and will sooner or later face some significant negative consequences. Let's examine some of these potentially dangerous consequences.

    Depression: Someone who is a perfectionist makes excessive demands and goals on themselves. If these demands are not met, that person can become discouraged. That discouragement can lead to lack of motivation and despair, followed by feelings of worthlessness. This can result in a compromised mental health, and a susceptibility to depression.

    Inflexibility: The perfectionist has to have everything done just they way he/she wants it to be. Things have to be in its perfect place. The project has to be done a particular way. It is difficult to delegate because their way is the only way to get things done "right". The individual becomes overwhelmed and overloaded, unwilling to yield, followed by high levels of stress. Too much stress can lead to deteriorated physical health.

    Destructive habits: The perfectionist who feels overloaded, full of anxiety or stressed may turn to drugs or alcohol for relief. Because they are already locked into an obsessive mindset, this pattern can become habit forming and destructive. It can wreck lives, families, and relationships.

    Low self-esteem: The perfectionist very rarely feels satisfied about what they are doing. They very seldom see their efforts or accomplishments as "good enough". They are relentlessly trying to outdo their last performance for fear of feeling like a failure. When this expectation is not achieved, self-confidence can bottom out, and self-esteem can crumble. This anemic self-esteem can paralyze the individual mentally and physically, taking away the ability to think objectively and clearly. The negative thoughts and self-doubts can leave one feeling helpless to change their situation.

    Overcoming Perfectionism

    Do you exhibit any of tendencies towards unhealthy perfectionism? Do you see your lifestyle as a bit unbalanced? Do you feel the need for change and to adopt a healthier approach to successful living?

    The first step to finding balance in life is to feel good about self. When self-perception and self-worth is high, there is no more need to stay locked in the perfectionistic mindset. Learn ways to improve your value of self.

    With high self-esteem it becomes easier to:

  • Accept you for who you are.
  • Understand that you are human and it's ok to make mistakes. There will be no need to feel inferior, or like a failure. Instead you will look to learn the lessons from your mistakes.
  • Be more resilient. When you fall short of your goals you are in a better state of mind to pick up the pieces and keep trying. You will not become as discouraged as before.
  • Set the bar at a reasonable level of expectation. Your self-worth will no longer be dependent on other people's perception of you. You will no longer seek the approval of others or live by the expectations of others.
  • The negative self talk and inner critic will diminish. With high self-concept your confidence will soar.
  • You will be able to think more clearly and objectively. The feelings of desperation and panic to have things done just right will subside.
  • Feel more flexible and comfortable to allow others in, delegating more and be open to taking advice.
  • Become fearless. When you become fearless you will have more tenacity to confront your fears and forge ahead.
  • Recognize when you are setting unreachable goals and make the necessary adjustments.

  • The self-destructive practice of unhealthy perfectionism must be replaced by healthy, attainable goal setting. The healthy approach means enjoying the process of achieving your goals without a chronic fixation on the end result. Examine your current approach and make the needed changes to enjoy a more balanced way of life. If you need help, contact me.

    Quotes on Perfectionism

  • "Perfection, fortunately, is not the only alternative to mediocrity. A more sensible alternative is excellence. Striving for excellence is stimulating and rewarding; striving for perfection--in practically anything--is both neurotic and futile." -Edwin Bliss

  • "While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, another is busy making mistakes and becoming superior." -Henry C. Link

  • "When you aim for perfection, you discover it's a moving target." -George Fisher

  • "Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing." - Harriet Braiker

  • "The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement."-George Will

  • "The most difficult part of attaining perfection is finding something to do for an encore."- Author Unknown

  • "Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it." - Salvador Dali

  • "Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves; the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough - that we should try again." - Julia Cameron

  • "Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly."-Robert Schuller

  • "Perfection does not exist in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well."-Angelique Arnauld

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