Perfectionism, however, takes this desire to an extreme. The “perfectionist” has a painful habit of trying to live up to impossible goals and ideals and feeling like a worthless when falling short. It is not the same of having goals, setting high standards and wanting to do the best one can to achieve them. It is an unrealistic view of one’s self and the realities of life in which you believe you actually can and should always be perfect or you’re an utter failure.
- If any or all of the following describe you, you may take your desire to do well past the point of what’s reasonable and suffer from “perfectionism.”
- If you make a mistake do you find it hard to forget about it? Does it haunt you as you keep going over and over it in your mind until you make another mistake to think about or give praise for something you’ve done well?
- Do you think that any mistake or error you make is completely your fault? Do you thoughts like if only you had prepared better, been more attentive or done something differently, the mistake wouldn’t have happened and things would have gone perfectly.
- Are you constantly comparing yourself to others and feel bad about yourself if you don’t measure up to someone else?
- Are you always telling yourself you must try harder and do better? Do you believe that is you can’t do something flawlessly you should give up and not do it at all?
- When you make a mistake in front of others do you feel humiliated and feel like you’ll die of embarrassment? Do you sometimes avoid engaging with people who have seen you make a mistake until they have somehow redeemed yourself with other successful accomplishments?
- Do you avoid asking for help because to do so would reveal you to be a weak and incompetent person?
- Do you make every effort to be sure others never see any of your weaker less accomplished characteristics or behaviors?
- Is it very difficult, or even impossible, to admit you’ve made a mistake? Is it difficult to apologize when you error, or to even believe you did, preferring to think it couldn’t have been your fault?
- Are you judgmental and critical of yourself? Do you berate yourself mentally or physically when you fall short of your expectations?
- Do you also judge others to be less-than-perfect too and be critical of them for not living up to your standards or expectations?
- Do you turn to alcohol or drugs to escape feelings and thoughts of worthlessness, guilt or shame at not being good enough?
- Do you submit yourself to grueling regimens to whip yourself into the ideals you expect?
If any, even a few, or all of the above describe you, you most likely are suffering from perfectionist and need some relief from this painful way of being.
Psychologist Joseph Weintraub of Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, is a scholar of perfectionism. He finds if you work for someone who’s a perfectionist, “there are no coping mechanisms other than to quit.” But of course we can’t quit on ourselves. Instead we need to realize that research shows that those who strive to be perfect are not as successful at those who aren’t. Instead they:
a) Usually have bad morale, are more irritable, feel tired more often and are less satisfied and
happy with themselves and with life.
b) Get sick more often than others.
c) Are driven to put performance over everything else, so sleep, relaxation, interpersonal
relationships with family, friends and colleagues and even eating healthfully suffer.
d) Are judgmental of and less compassionate toward others and therefore seem aloof and distant
e) Find it more difficult to be compassionate toward others
f) Ultimately actually achieve less that those who are not perfectionistic.
To become a healthier, more successful person who enjoys a full rich life and who others enjoy being with, perfectionists need to give up their habitual perfectionistic ways of thinking, feeling and doing. If that’s you, here’s what you can do:
- You don’t have to give up your high standards, but view them as targets, not as imperatives. You can do a good job, and ultimately a better job, by not trying to be perfect all the time.
- Practice becoming more patient. You have time to do a good job, grow and improve, even if when it doesn’t feel as you do.
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This content of this blog is drawn from Secrets of Self-Employment by Paul and Sarah Edwards and Great Courses: Introduction to Mindfulness