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Wellness Club

What’s the Harm In Being a Perfectionist?

Sporty & Rich Wellness - What's the Harm in Being a Perfectionist?

By: @ericabassowellness

Do you identify as a perfectionist? Maybe you've admitted to being a perfectionist in a job interview when asked about your weaknesses and strengths. Being a perfectionist is typically synonymous with being successful. While there’s nothing wrong with striving to do your best, a perfectionist's idea of “doing their best” is perfection – which is impossible. Given this impossible standard, perfectionists feel as though they are always falling short, which only heightens their inner critic.

Signs of Perfectionism:

You set unrealistically high expectations for yourself and others

Quick to find fault and are overly critical

Tend to procrastinate out of fear of failure

Forget to celebrate successes

Shrug off compliments

Possess an “all-or-nothing" attitude 

Examples of Perfectionism:

Difficulty being happy for others who are successful.

Comparing oneself unfavorably and unrealistically to others.

Focusing on the end goal rather than enjoying the process.

You avoid trying new things in front of others to avoid being seen as less than perfect.

Spending 30 minutes writing and rewriting a simple email.

Possible Root Causes:

Modeling from parents who exhibited perfectionist behaviors

Fear of disapproval from others

Low self esteem

Childhood wounds (eg. not feeling valued or parents exhibited frequent disapproval)

Sibling comparison and competition

Survival technique - it relieves painful emotions

Response to some form of trauma

Ways To Cope:

Identify perfectionist behavior patterns

When you are aware of them, identify the underlying triggering emotion

Develop healthy coping skills for the underlying emotions (i.e fear or shame)

Practice self compassion

Challenge your “black or white” or “all or nothing” thinking

Plan to make mistakes on purpose

Understand that ‘done’ is better than perfect

Develop a self worth outside of accomplishments

Take up a new hobby and practice having a learner’s mindset

Celebrate small wins and enjoy the process of things

Perfectionism is the idea that if we look perfect, act perfect, and live perfectly that we will protect ourselves from shame, blame, and/or judgment from others. The problem is that this shield actually blocks us from living an authentic and satisfying life. If unaware or untreated, perfectionism can negatively impact one’s mental health, typically leading to more anxiety and burn out, and less resilience. 

Erica Basso is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist practicing in California. She helps guide women in overcoming anxiety, perfectionism, and imposter syndrome.