Ask yourself this question; is it ever possible to be 100% perfect? Perfectionism is not necessarily about being ‘perfect’. So, if it’s not about being ‘perfect’, then what does it mean when we talk about perfectionism?
We understand perfectionism to involve relentless striving for extremely high, unrelenting standards that are personally demanding (for yourself and/or others). Judging your self worth based mainly on your ability to strive and achieve such high standards and experiencing negative consequences of setting such demanding standard, but continuing to go for them despite the huge cost to you.
Some common types of perfectionistic behaviours are:
Procrastinating and struggling to make decisions in a timely manner.
Excessive organizing and list making
Giving up easily
Avoiding situations in which you may ‘fail’
It’s also important to note that being a perfectionist doesn’t necessarily mean having unrelenting standards in every area of your life. For example it’s possible to be a perfectionist in one area of your life such as work but not in another such as health and fitness.
Perfectionistic Behaviours and Thinking
Perfectionists engage in a range of unhelpful behaviours to make sure they continue to meet the high standard they have set for themselves. Such as, procrastinating, checking, giving up too soon, correcting, avoiding tasks you fear you are unable to do adequately, list-making etc. These behaviours maybe time consuming and often done at the expense of other important activities and may even delay or interfere with attempts to meet the standard set.
Perfectionists tend to pay attention to any evidence that they are not achieving so they can correct these immediately. Perfectionists also have an extreme view of what success and failure is, with no in between, causing judgments of themselves that is more harsh than others would.
Perfectionists unhelpful thinking styles include:
- Black and white thinking – no shades of grey.
- Should and must statements – putting unreasonable demands on self and others
- Jumping to conclusions – assuming that we know what others are thinking, or can predict the future.
Here are some practical steps you can take to begin taming your perfectionist tendencies:
- Recognise and encourage the part of you that sees yourself as worthy, as ‘good enough.’ For example, make a list of things you like about yourself, like good personal qualities and rewarding relationships with others.
- Pay attention to your “all or nothing” thoughts, and remind yourself that you don’t need to be the best in everything in order to feel good enough and respected. Use a thought diary to help you become aware of your negative thoughts and notice how these thoughts affect how you feel and behave.
- Try to be less critical of other people, and treat them with patience and kindness. In addition to improving your personal and professional relationships, it might reduce your fear of being criticised by others.
- See a counsellor, in counselling, you will learn to articulate the desires and vulnerabilities that can lead to perfectionism. A counsellor will help you contact the unique and special qualities you already possess. As you become more self-accepting and hopeful, the pressure to be perfect may subside.