Perfectionism is a person’s desire to achieve flawlessness. It is often accompanied by setting impossibly high standards, and being overly self-critical if those standards are not met. There are both positive and negative aspects of perfectionism, as we saw in the first post of this two-post series, but when it becomes too controlling or too pervasive, it’s important to curb perfectionist tendencies.
Are you a Perfectionist?
PhD Max Belkin says that “perfectionism often stems from childhood experiences with primary caregivers.” Parents especially can become exceedingly dedicated to raising highly accomplished children, and then be critical of their children when they fall below those standards.
Regardless of how you were raised or what you encountered during your formative years, there are many signs that indicate if you’re a perfectionist:
- You’re quick to find fault in others, yet you also get defensive when you’re criticized.
- You’re extremely eager to please.
- You have an all-or-nothing attitude; either you excel in something or you don’t bother with it in the first place.
- You don’t think there’s room for error.
- You’re incredibly specific about how things should be done.
- You procrastinate, waiting for the “right” moment to start something.
- You set nearly unattainable goals.
- You become depressed if you fail to achieve your objectives.
- You often spend much longer on a task than is needed in an effort to perfect it.
- You aren’t happy even when you succeed; there’s always more to accomplish.
How to Tame Your Perfectionist Ways
If you identified with a number of the common attributes of a person with perfectionist tendencies, there are many steps you can take to cope with this trait. Few of them are following:
- Acknowledge your positive attributes: make a list of healthy relationships you’re cultivated, things you like about yourself, and meaningful experiences you’ve had.
- Build relationships with people who value family and community over money, status, and tangible items, the latter of which are commonly seen in an all-or-nothing light.
- Try to squash the idea that it’s all or nothing, and tell yourself it’s okay to not be the best at something in order to garner respect.
- Set time limits to help curb your penchant for procrastinating, and know that spending too much time on one thing means you’ll have less time to work on another.
- Focus on being more patient when others make mistakes, which will likely help you shed your fear of being criticized by others as well as the habit of being overly self-critical when you happen to error.
It’s not inherently healthy or unhealthy to strive for the best in whatever you do. When correctly approached, such determination can affect positive results. However, if you’re constantly criticizing yourself for not performing up to your lofty, often unrealistic standards, you may develop self-loathing, anxiety, and depression.
It’s great to set goals, and work hard to achieve them, but make sure they’re realistic. And if you fall short, know that it’s okay, and know that perfectionism is more often an impediment to success than it is a helpful factor.
Do your best by all means and do not forget to appreciate yourself often!