Would you avoid doing something at all, rather than risk doing it wrong? Are you prone to procrastination? Do you have trouble taking a compliment? Is delegating not your thing? If the word in your head right now is “Yes”, then you might be a Perfectionist and suffer from perfectionism.
Perfectionism can be a slippery issue to define. The strong desire to be your best is something most of us can identify with. Especially those of us who grew up as high-achievers (straight A students, star-athletes, Head Girls). We tend to internalize accomplishment as part of who we are.
Now that we’re out of school, we’re still going after those gold-stars. In our careers of course, but also in our private lives. Self-motivation is a good thing. It’s healthy to push yourself and strive for success. But Perfectionism can turn life into an endless report card.
What is Perfectionism?
The irony of Perfectionism is that perfectionists actually tend to achieve less and stress more than regular high achievers. The desire for success evolves into a toxic fear of failure. Struggling to match unreachable ideals can lead to self-criticism, anxiety and depression. From the outside, perfectionism can look a lot like a “Type A” or highly motivated personality. The difference lies on the inside, with your motivation. Consider the following list of perfectionist traits, do any of them sound familiar?
Ten traits of perfectionists:
- All-or-nothing thinking. Anything less than “perfect” is a failure.
- Highly critical. Of yourself and others.
- Motivated by fear. Moving away from failure instead of towards a goal.
- Unrealistic standards. Setting unachievable goals.
- Results focused. Difficulty enjoying the process.
- Crushed by unmet goals. A tendency to wallow.
- Rigidity. A belief that there’s only one right way.
- Prone to procrastination. Anxiety over mistakes makes it difficult to start projects.
- Defensiveness. A tendency to be hurt by constructive criticism.
- Low self-esteem. Comparing yourself to an impossible ideal.
If you see some of these perfectionist traits in yourself, don’t despair. Recognizing the need for change is the crucial first step. Now you can begin finding a healthier, more positive approach to achieving your goals.
What You Can Do About It
There’s no one path out of perfectionism, but there are a few proven strategies to help manage the stress and negativity that goes along with it and set you on the path to overcoming bad habits:
Understand that failure is not weakness. Reframe your experiences as what you learned instead of what went wrong.
Lose the comparison mindset. If you’re trying something new, don’t compare yourself to an expert, you’ll only be discouraged. And stop comparing yourself and your life to friends, neighbors and strangers on instagram! Breaking the comparison habit involves mindfulness, compassionate self-talk, and challenging negative self-judgments.
Celebrate yourself. Identify your strengths and what you do well in all aspects of your life, and use that as concrete evidence of your abilities. Knowing and embracing your strengths is a powerful way to build self-confidence. Taking pride and celebrating your wins — even the small ones — will boost your self-confidence and motivate you to achieve more.
Perfection is a construct, an abstract that’s incompatible with reality. Despite that, Perfectionism can be very real. For some people, it’s a deeply ingrained trait, affecting all aspects of their life. There’s no quick fix for perfectionism, it’s a gradual process. Overcoming perfectionism can be incredibly freeing. It will allow you to live more openly, with greater health both mentally and physically.