The Truth About Perfectionism
Updated: Jul 1, 2021
We live in a society that values things that appear perfect. And I suppose there are things that can be perfect. Architects can draw the perfect straight line, mathematicians can solve an equation with a perfect calculation, and a chocolate cake can be perfectly moist.
But as human beings, we can never reach a state of perfection because we will always be a work in progress. Perfection indicates a finality – a finished product – but we as humans are always growing and changing.
What is Perfectionism?
Many people view perfectionism as a positive attribute. They believe the more “perfect” they are, the more success they will have in life.
Perfectionism is NOT the same thing as always doing your best. Arguably, we are always doing our best given our energy level, number of internal and external resources, and levels of awareness at any given time. But perfectionism takes this concept to the extreme: pushing past our limits in a way that degrades our physical and emotional well-being.
People with perfectionist tendencies often have self-defeating thoughts and/or behaviors that actually make it HARDER to achieve their goals. It is often accompanied by an intense internal critic. Perfectionism also can make the individual feel stress, anxiety, and depression.
Signs to Look For
Most human beings, from time to time, will strive for perfectionism in some aspect of their life. As an example, that “perfectly moist chocolate cake” I mentioned earlier got that way because the person who baked it was trying to get everything JUST RIGHT as a gift for someone’s birthday.
But there are those people who are “full-time” perfectionists. They strive for perfection in all aspects of their life.
Here are some signs you may be a perfectionist:
● You don’t like to attempt tasks or activities unless you feel you can complete them perfectly.
● You are end-oriented, meaning you focus little on the process of creating or learning something and put all of the emphasis on the outcome.
● You cannot see a task as having been completed unless it meets your perfectionist standards.
● You tend to procrastinate because you don’t like starting a task until you know you can perfectly complete it.
● You tend to take far longer completing tasks than others. This can be problematic at work.
Again, perfectionism is not the same thing as doing your best. It is a condition whereby the individual is almost incapable of feeling joy or pride at what they accomplish because in their own minds, they are never quite good enough.
If you believe you may have traits of perfectionism and it is causing you stress, there are things you can do to change your behavior so you can live a healthier and happier life.
If you’d like to explore treatment options, please reach out to me.
Stephanie Post, PsyD. at Higher Self Psychotherapy specializes in trauma therapy, anxiety therapy, depression therapy, and self-esteem therapy online anywhere in California and in the Marina neighborhood of San Francisco.