Lisa is constantly complaining to her husband about the way he parks his car, hangs his clothes, makes the bed, and even where he leaves his keys on the counter. She has her husband on pins and needles due to her rigid ways and his inability to do anything right in her eyes.
David always feels that his schoolwork and performance on the football field are never good enough. Every night he studies for hours and goes over his football plays in his backyard until dark. Whenever he gets below an A on a test, he is devastated and ends up with a severe headache.
DEFINITION & KEY THOUGHTS
Perfectionism involves a tendency to feel that anything that is less than perfect is completely unacceptable and is rooted in the need for affirmation and control.
Perfectionists believe that they should know everything and as a result, will beat themselves up for even the tiniest mistakes. They believe that they should be completely powerful and whenever things are out of their control, they become upset. Lastly, they believe that they should accomplish an impossible amount of work and become discouraged and depressed over how little they can actually do.
Perfectionists are idealistic and often think about the way that things should be rather than how they are. They set unreachably high goals that ultimately set them up for failure, discouragements, and quitting. Perfectionists are afraid of failure and equate it with a lack of personal worth. Lastly, they rarely think about their own desires, but rather are product-minded and believe that happiness, contentment, and any sense of accomplishment are not valid until the completion of something. They over look the process of things because they are too focused on reaching the result.
Perfectionists feel that they must be the best at everything they do and that their worth is calculated by their performance- as a result their sense of worth is constantly fluctuating on a daily basis. When discussing perfectionism, it is important to bring up the two different personality types that exist:
- Type A people. These individuals are most likely to be perfectionists. They are strict, rigid, and have a very specific way of doing everything. They have a need for punctuality and often have problems with those who are more relaxed with their time. They are often described as being driven or as workaholics. These qualities may be the result of a certain point in their lives, when they probably received conditional love- that is, they only received a reward or acceptance if a certain standard was met. Type A people are more subject to suffering a heart attack at an earlier age.
- Type B people. These individuals are not as rigid as Type A people. They are much more carefree with their time, are more laid back, and are more flexible overall. They tend to cope more positively with daily stress than Type A people.
- Determine your personality. Explore yourself and discover what makes you tick. Sometimes it can be helpful to take a personality inventory- seeing yourself on paper might assist you in realizing that you have your own unique personality tendencies that constitute who you are. As a perfectionist, celebrate what you bring to your work but learn to manage it in a way that it is not harmful to yourself or others.
- Change is not the issue. You do not need to change, but rather need to understand your inherent nature towards perfectionism and how to use it appropriately.
- Learn acceptance and flexibility. Realize that it is okay that everyone is not as rigid or as strict as you are and that that is okay. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen if you were to be a bit more lax- often it won’t anything worth using sleep over.
- Laugh a little. Don’t be so critical of yourself or others. Find humor in your mistakes and who you are.
- Be realistic. Nobody is perfect, so stop trying to be. Look at life as it is, rather than what you think that it should be. Meet those around you halfway- don’t try to do everything on your own and don’t expect yourself or others to do the impossible. Set reasonable time limits and attainable goals. Determine where in your life perfectionism is and is not appropriate and learn that sometimes your best is good enough. Last, realize that you can learn a lot of positive things from your mistakes.
Be perfect in heart. In the long run, a perfect heart will do more to guarantee you a life full of positive self-worth and healthy