The Painful Destruction Of Perfectionism

January 20, 2024by GHC Team0

Perfectionism gets lots of credit for greatness in our modern society, but it’s due no thanks at all. It wrecks people, even though we use the term like it’s a great compliment. In reality, perfectionism destroys much more than it creates. 

Perfectionism is a hedge, a way to avoid failure, a hopeless attempt to avoid rejection by performing at an impossibly flawless level all the time. Perfectionism binds people to unrealistic standards. It’s a guarantee of constant disappointment. 

Perfectionism is also tied to some psychological disorders. Perfectionism is more significant than a flawed way of thinking; it’s a way of life that took root early on in life. 

Consider the following questions. Do they resonate with you?

Are You a Perfectionist?

  1. Do you think in absolute terms? Things are either great or terrible, black or white, happy or sad? Perfectionists tend to think in opposites, while others think along a continuum.
  2. Does one small flaw in something you’re doing make you feel it’s worthless?
  3. Your standards for yourself and others are more demanding than a situation calls for? 
  4. Do you feel like a failure if you’re less than 100% perfect? In school, does a 90% A feel like a failure, in comparison to a 100% A? Would a “B” make you feel like a loser?
  5. You can’t delegate because you just know others won’t do the job right?
  6. You’re often late getting work in on time. No project can ever be perfect, but that doesn’t stop you from trying for a flawless outcome, at the cost of being on time? This can stem from taking too long to get started on a project because of constant tweaks and fixes to the requirements, or endless revisions to the finished product to make sure it’s flawless beyond any reasonable standard.
  7. Your self-image and self-confidence depend on your accomplishments and what others think of those?
  8. You recognize your errors and focus on them far more than your successes, perhaps even imagining errors?
  9. Do you think regarding “should” or “must” a lot? Like “I should never be late, and if I am, I’ve screwed up terribly” or “my co-workers should always follow my instructions to the letter,” or “this report must be perfect, or it’s worthless” and so forth. When we think in terms of “should,” or “must” we are often trying to impose our concepts of how others, even the world, should be. 
  10. Are feelings of accomplishment fleeting after successes?

Outcomes of Perfectionism

A lifelong habit of perfectionism can lead to some successes, but always at the cost of happiness. There are no content perfectionists and few that are happy for long. Ultimately, perfectionists are not very adaptable. 

That’s contrary to conventional wisdom, but the fact is that nothing in the world is perfect. No one is without flaws. A computer microprocessor can be made perfect for its requirements, but people aren’t machines.

Here are just a few of the problems rigid perfectionism leads to:

  1. An inability to be happy with anything other than flawless perfection in any aspect of life.
  2. Frequent frustrations and problems with relationships
  3. Chronic anxiety or depression (or both!)
  4. Health issues. Perfectionists prioritize their work over relationships, relaxation, and their health issues. These health issues get worse from lack of attention. Chronic stress and anxiety lead to stomach and GI problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, high blood pressure, muscle tension, and joint pain, and can even make diabetes worse.

Perfectionism harms the sufferer and all the people who love them. It compromises relationships and eventually erodes health and psychological well-being, but it’s possible to change. Perfectionism can be moderated or even shed completely.

It’s a problem that in serious cases takes psychotherapy to resolve. With love and effort, perfectionism is correctable.

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GHC Team

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Copyright 2016-2024 Grace Hope Consulting, LLC