Perfectionism

"Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly!"-Author unknown

Wow!  How many of you that just read this are shocked, angry or dismayed?  If you are a perfectionist then you are probably ready to challenge this notion or are going to leave this page in a few seconds. That response is normal to this quote.  Perfectionism is a false idea.  An illusion.  A concept that is flawed.  Consider the following questions:

Do you feel like what you accomplish is never quite good enough?

Do you often put off turning in papers or projects, waiting to get them “just right”?

Do you feel you must give more than 100% on everything you do or else you will be mediocre or even a failure?

If so, rather than simply working toward success, you may in fact be trying to be perfect. Perfectionism refers to a set of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors aimed at reaching excessively high unrealistic goals. Perfectionism is often mistakenly seen in our society as desirable or even necessary for success. However, recent studies have shown that perfectionistic attitudes actually interfere with success. The desire to be perfect can both rob you of a sense of personal satisfaction and cause you to fail to achieve as much as people who have more realistic strivings.

Causes of perfectionism

It is likely learned early in life that other people value you because of what you can accomplish

Self-esteem based primarily on external standards

Parents: Stereo-typically described as being critical of mistakes and insisting on top grades and scores

Unrealistic expectations create pressure and foster performance anxiety

Feelings associated with perfectionism

Fear of failure: equate failure with a lack of personal worth

Fear of making mistakes: equate mistakes into failure

Fear of disapproval: if others see their flaws, they will not be accepted

Thoughts associated with perfectionism 

All or nothing thinking:

¨Think they are worthless if accomplishments are not perfect, difficulty seeing perspective

Overemphasis on shoulds:

¨Serve as rigid rules for how lives must be led, rarely take into account wants and desires

Believing others are easily successful

The Vicious Cycle of Perfectionism

Set unreachable goals

Fail to meet these goals

Constant pressure and chronic failure lead to less productivity and effectiveness

Leads to self criticism and self-blaming which results in low self-esteem or anxiety and/or depression

Give up on goals, set new goals with the thought, “this time if I try harder, I’ll succeed”

Cycle starts over again

What Can I Do?

Challenge thoughts and behavior that fuel perfectionism:

Set goals in a sequential manner, the next goal one level beyond your present level

Experiment with level of success: instead of 100% all the time, aim for 90%, 80%, or even 60%, to help you realize that the world doesn’t end when you are not perfect.

Healthy goal setting and striving are quite different from the self-defeating process of perfectionism.

Set goals based on wants and desires, rather than in response to external expectations

Realistic, internal and potentially attainable goals

Take pleasure in the process rather than focusing on the end result

Don’t generalize disapproval or failure

Unreasonable vs. Reasonable Demands

Perfect is unattainable mistakes will, and even must, happen

You cannot constantly be patient and good natured, even toward the people you love.

If you do something against your moral or ethical values, accept it and put it behind you—apologize and correct it if you can and then move on.

Praise oneself—”I’m doing good work and the best that I can in this situation”

Procrastination can lead to mental health problems like: 

Anxiety Disorders, Panic Attacks, Depression, Suicide, Alcohol Abuse, Drug Abuse just to name a few.  If you believe that you may be a Perfectionist and it is causing you problems in your life you can come to or call us to discuss this further and start the process of getting help.  Contact us at 581-3413.