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. www.ericabassotherapy.com