Updated: May 10
Have people called you a perfectionist? Or do you know one? Perhaps you noticed that they are not satisfied unless they achieved 100% on a test. Most would be happy with 95% or even less, but a perfectionist would consider that a failure.
Interestingly, many view perfectionisms as an underhanded compliment. After all, those striving for perfection are over-achievers, go-getters, are disciplined etc. Even during a job interview, when an employer asks you what your weakness is, people sometimes say they are a perfectionist. The intent of this is to be actually hinting at a strength, rather than a weakness.
Having said that, I want to focus on the dark side of perfectionism. Perfectionism to begin with, actually holds you back. You start only when you feel everything is finally at that superb level to get going. That means that it takes you longer to get started, and for some their level of perfectionism is so high, that they never start. They will find something to fix in their attempt to get it perfect. And there is more, think about how much of your time gets spent trying to get things perfect. This is time that could be spend relaxing, or enjoying your life.
It’s no wonder then that perfectionists tend to stress more and are not only hard on themselves to be flawless but also are hard on others. Striving for flawlessness can also be isolating. Who wants to work with a perfectionist? Most don’t want to deal with having someone tell them their work doesn’t measure up and get stressed out.
Before we look into solutions, how does a person even become a perfectionist? Like most patterns, it often stems from childhood. It is not uncommon to also have some trauma associated with it. Some examples I have seen that created a perfectionist mentality, were from a client’s childhood at the time of their parent’s divorce. Unfortunately, many children but the blame on themselves, and in a specific case that I recall, the child told himself that he has to be perfect in order to prevent another unpleasant event from happening to his family. That is a heavy load for a kid to carry. This belief then gets embedded at the subconscious level, and continues to play out in adulthood. With another client, the mother had tendencies that she only accepted the best. If the child brought home an A, the mom would say why not an A+? This caused the child to strive for perfectionism to gain the mother’s approval and continued for her as an adult, until we released the root cause.
For some tips to help you get out of this mode, the first step is to develop awareness. Become aware of when it is that you are exhibiting these tendencies and note what triggers them. Once you know the triggers, take actions to counter them. For example, let’s say you discovered that feelings of loneliness are a trigger for you. In those situations, then, reach out to a loved one to divert that attention away from that feeling. That is a first step for you to take. Awareness is not to be underestimated. This subconscious programing has been running for so long that many of us are numb to it, and therefore lost awareness. For more help with getting to the root cause of your behaviors, and shifting those patterns, click on the link for a free intake session.