We are currently a society very focused on high achievement. Many people feel driven to do more than do a “good” job, it has to be perfect. In fact, they feel THEY and the people in their lives have to be perfect. Perfectionism that has only to do with having high personal standards for yourself combined with having good coping skills (the ability to approach and complete the task) can really be very adaptive. Some of the most high achieving professionals and athletes are perfectionists.
On the other hand, social perfectionism (the belief that others will only value you if you are perfect) leads to extremes of feeling depressed, anxious and even potentially suicidal. This kind of perfectionism about oneself can also lead to eating disorders like anorexia. Girls feel that they have to be perfect and their attempt to do this can lead to starving themselves in order to control their bodies. Perfectionism leaves one vulnerable to real difficulty when things do go wrong in life, as is bound to eventually happen. A perfectionist can’t accept anything going wrong and feels utterly helpless and overwhelmed if it does.
Perfectionism about others tends to wreak havoc in relationships. Demanding perfection from your spouse, children, friends, and co-workers will inevitably end up in criticism, disappointment, and arguments.
The perfectionist tends to say to themselves things like “I have to be perfect or something bad will happen, or no one will love me,” or “I have to keep control of myself and others.” These are examples of the unconscious “stories” they have created and live by. Since it is really not possible to accomplish these things, they are vulnerable to feeling they have failed all the time.
What can you do if you think your perfectionism is getting in the way of feeling good about yourself and being productive in your life?