What is Perfectionism?
This is the first of several articles that address perfectionism. In this article, we’ll explore what perfectionism is, the causes and characteristics. In the next article, we’ll look at why it is destructive. In the final articles, we’ll take a look at some strategies for both controlling the need to be perfect and living a more relaxed, satisfying life.
Perfectionists aspire to be top achievers and do not allow themselves to make even a single mistake. The are always on the alert for imperfections and weaknesses in themselves and others.
Perfectionism is not the same as striving for excellence. People who pursue excellence in a healthy way take genuine pleasure in working to meet high standards. Perfectionists are motivated by self-doubt and fears of disapproval, ridicule, and rejection. The high producer has drive, while the perfectionist is driven.
Causes and Characteristics
Fear of failure and rejection. The perfectionist believes that she will be rejected or fail if she is not always perfect. So if sure of success, she may rise to the occasion. Or, fearing failure, she becomes paralyzed and is unable to produce or perform at all. She takes herself out of the game.
Fear of success. The perfectionist believes that if he is successful in what he undertakes, he will have to keep it up. This becomes a heavy burden — who wants to operate at such a high level all of the time?
Low self-esteem. A perfectionist’s needs for love and approval tend to blind her to the needs and wishes of other. This makes it difficult or impossible to healthy relationships with others.
Black-and-white thinking. Perfectionists see most experiences as either good or bad, perfect or imperfect. There is nothing in between. The perfectionist believes that the flawless product or superb performance must be produced every time. Perfectionists believe if it can’t be done perfectly, it’s not worth doing.
Extreme determination. Perfectionists are determined to overcome all obstacles to achieving success. This is also true of high achievers, but the perfectionist focuses only on the result of his efforts. He is unable to enjoy the process of producing the achievement. His relentless pursuit of the goal becomes his downfall because it often results in overwhelming anxiety, sabotaging his heroic efforts.
To be continued.