A brief recap of what I have been discussing for the past 2 weeks…. I defined what perfectionism is which is a set of self-defeating thought patterns that push you to try to achieve unrealistic or unobtainable goals… I also differentiated between negative and positive  perfectionism which are just to mention a few: negative perfectionist sees mistakes as signs of unworthiness on the other hand positive perfectionist sees mistakes and failures as part of growth.  I also discussed the effects of negative perfectionism which are: procrastination, missed opportunities and so on…. If you missed any of these series you can click on the links below…

The cries of a perfectionist (part 1)
The cries of a perfectionist (part 2)

Today I will discuss the causes of negative perfectionism

What are they?

(1)Excessive praise:

Children who grow 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. Like a teacher or coach–heaps too much praise on a child for their perfect test score or school work, it can create an unhealthy need in the child. The child may expect balloons and standing ovations after every performance, and beat himself/herself  up whenever he/she falls short.

(2) Excessive criticism:

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.

(3)Childhood trauma:

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.

(4) Children whose parents exhibited perfectionist behaviours :

Children whose parents are very successful feel pressured to live up to the standards and expectations of their parents.   When children see their parents working doggedly on projects, Coming   home late, taking work home, not taking holidays, working weekends, paying desperate attention to detail, they are likely to internalize the message: “Everything must be perfect.”  Likewise, if a parent hovers over a child, correcting each tiny mistake, the child learns that no error is insignificant; they learn to “sweat the small stuff.”  In short, a mother and father can inadvertently raise a perfectionist by modelling perfectionist behaviour.

(5)Children are not taught that mistakes are part of life:

Our perfectionism also grew out of the fact that as children we didn’t learn that mistakes were a natural and acceptable part of life. We didn’t learn that errors were to be honoured because they offer a chance to learn to live comfortably  in the middle ground between success and failure — where most people live most of the time.

(6) The famous Low self-esteem:

Someone who suffers from low self-esteem works relentlessly to achieve perfection in order to compensate for feelings of inferiority.

(7) Fear of failure:

When you fear failure or making mistakes it can make you to overcompensate by exaggerating your efforts to achieve. You will want to make sure all the Ts are crossed and all the dots are in the right places even if it takes forever.

(8) A society where there is lots of competition:

A highly competitive society makes demands on us. It creates the mind-set of having to be the best. That if we are not the best in anything we have no place in society….Once this mind-set becomes an obsession, tendencies of perfectionism can follow.

(9)  Media:

Media has a large part to play in making us wanting to have the perfect body, by bombarding us daily with impeccable dressed models, photo shopped actors and so on… We are constantly plagued with these images, we then have a certain mind-set that we must have a perfect body to look healthy, acceptable, beautiful and so on, as a result we suffer from eating disorders…( anorexia and bulimia) , we over exercise  and might go down the  cosmetic surgery route  just to have the perfect body.

(10) Genetics:

Studies suggest that some people may simply be genetically predisposed to strive for perfection.

Food for thought

Many people who struggle with perfectionism possess a core belief that their value is directly related to their accomplishments or the approval of others.  They tend to have a strong desire to please others and a fear of disapproval, as their self-esteem is dependent on external standards rather than on an inner sense of being valuable.

Next week the finale I will discuss ways to manage or eradicate negative perfectionism…