Perfectionism is often mistaken for ‘being perfect’ or ‘doing something perfectly’. Many people assume that  it must be a good thing. Other people think of being a perfectionist as being something negative and embarrassing. So is it a good or a bad thing?

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a set of self-defeating thought patterns that push you to try to achieve unrealistically high goals. Perfectionism involves putting pressure on yourself  to meet high standards which then powerfully influences the way  you  think about yourself. Researchers have shown that parts of perfectionism are   helpful, and parts are unhelpful. They are called  adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism.

Adaptive perfectionists: work on developing their skills. Their standards are always rising, and they approach work with optimism, pleasure, and a desire to improve. This is clearly a healthy type of perfectionism.

Maladaptive perfectionists:   however, are never satisfied with what they achieve. If something isn’t perfect, they dismiss it. They may experience fear of failure, doubt, unhappiness, and other painful emotions.

It’s important to understand the difference between maladaptive perfectionism and a healthy quest for success. Maladaptive perfectionists see mistakes as unacceptable, as they think that these lead others to see them as incompetent.    By contrast, people striving for excellence in a healthy way see mistakes as an opportunity to grow; they understand that mistakes are part of the learning process, and they accept them.

We would agree that it is generally a good idea to have high standards. Having goals helps you achieve things in life. BUT when these goals are either unachievable or only achievable at great cost, it makes it very difficult to feel good about yourself. This is when perfectionism can be problematic

This series will be dealing with the problematic side of perfectionism …. It will be in 4 parts today I will discuss traits of a perfectionist.

What are the traits of a perfectionist 

(1)You’ve always eager to please.

This normally starts from childhood when you were young you want to please your parents and your teachers by getting an A+ anything short from an A.. Will send you into bout of depression… even if it is a B more frustrating…

 (2) Your drive for perfection is costing you a lot and you consider that is the price you have to pay..

If you are someone who will go to great length often unhealthy lengths to avoid average or mediocre and who takes no pain no gain view in pursuit of success…. Then you are a perfectionist…

Note perfectionists are not normally high achievers but it’s most times tied down to workaholic…

“[The perfectionist] acknowledges that his relentless standards are stressful and somewhat unreasonable, but he believes they drive him to levels of excellence and productivity he could never attain otherwise,” Burns writes.

(3) Procrastinate

A perfectionist is a creature of procrastination, always waiting for the ducks to line up before taking the plunge… waiting  for the perfect time to be right, perfect moment that all the pieces of the puzzle are at their fingertips…  chasing perfection only sets them up for disappointments…the fear of failure is  one of the major reasons for procrastination.

 (4) You’re highly critical of others.

A perfectionist applies unrealistic standards in others, they are highly critical and hard to please, like walking on eggshells when people are around them… they are rigid, judgemental, they expect one to be perfect in all ways…. In a nutshell they reject in others what they hate about themselves…

 (5) All or nothing mind-set

“If I can’t do something perfectly then there is no point even trying”

Many perfectionists struggle with black-and-white thinking — you’re a success one moment and a failure the next, based on your latest accomplishment or failure — and they do things in extremes. If you have perfectionist tendencies, you’ll probably only throw yourself into a new project or task if you know there’s a good chance you can succeed — and if there’s a risk of failure, you’ll likely avoid it altogether.

 (6) You take everything personally.

Because they take every setback and criticism personally, perfectionists tend to be less resilient than others. Rather than bouncing back from challenges and mistakes, the perfectionist is beaten down by them, taking every misstep as evidence for the truth of their deepest, continually plaguing fear: “I’m not good enough.”

(7) Get really defensive when criticized.

A perfectionist jumps to defend his or her self  at the slightest hint of criticism even when it is not needed… it is a way  of preserving  their fragile self-image and the way they appear to others… in a nutshell a perfectionist tries to take control against any threat  to their so called EGO– even when NO defence is needed.

(8) Never quite “there yet.”

A perfectionist focuses and is consumed on what he has not accomplished… perfection is an impossible pursuit and with a perfectionist they are never there yet…. Because of this they drive constantly to out-do themselves…

(9) Outcome orientated as opposed to process

You don’t enjoy the process of learning and working; you only care about the result.

Food for thought

Being a perfectionist doesn’t necessarily mean you have unrelenting high standards in every area of your life, although this may be the case for some people. It is possible to be a perfectionist in one area of your life (e.g., at work) but not in another area of your life (e.g., grooming).

check out next week article on the effects of perfectionism in our lives