The Pressure of Perfectionism


perfectionismIn today’s society, many people struggle with the desire to be perfect. Perfectionism is the view that anything done in a less than perfect fashion is unacceptable.  In a PowerPoint presentation found at this website, Jennifer Marten explains how striving for perfection can take away from personal happiness and success.

Perfectionists can be identified by a series of habits. For example, a perfectionist will often overcommit, has difficulty making choices, insists on doing all the work in group projects, is always busy, has trouble accepting criticism, and procrastinates.

Some perfectionists think these mannerisms are helping them to be successful, but this is a huge misconception. The constant need to excel at everything puts large amounts of pressure on an individual to not make mistakes. This mentality leads to self-loathing, anxiety, and worry. Many perfectionists are unable to relax and believe that the only way to get approval and love is through being perfect.

Adults can provoke perfectionist tendencies in children if they are always critical, criticize others, do a lot of things for their child, give too much praise, and say the phrase “Yes, but” frequently. The need to be perfect can actually hinder an individual’s ability to function in every day life. These individuals are so afraid of failure that they avoid trying new things, leave work unfinished, set unrealistically high goals, and focus on mistakes. These poisonous thoughts and habits lead to writer’s block and performance and social anxiety.

Healthy goal oriented individuals set high standards that are attainable, focus on enjoying the process as well as the end goal, bounce back from failure, and have the ability to laugh at themselves. These traits allow these individuals to take risks and learn new things.

Some ways to overcome a perfectionist attitude is to push yourself to try new things (even though it can be scary), laugh at yourself, set realistic goals, keep a diary of progress, practice accepting criticism, and move forward when things don’t go your way.

Although it feels as if sometimes we all have a little bit of a perfectionist in us, it is important to be satisfied when we have done our best. Even if the fruits of our labor do not turn out perfectly, we can learn, grow, and enjoy the journey.