Perfectionism – what is it and how to overcome it

Perfectionism – it is my old friend, so the topic of it is very close to me. This friendship has been present in my life for many years. Today, I decided to share with you my experience on this subject. Anyone can be a perfectionist – an elderly person, a young adult, and even a child. The causes of this feature in humans are not entirely clear. It is suspected that genes can influence the development of it. However, the most crucial period for the possible development of perfectionism is adolescence – various difficulties that arise in this period of life, which can ultimately result in a given person becoming a perfectionist. The problems that may contribute to perfectionism include, among others, excessive parental expectations towards the child, constant criticism of the young person and early loss of a loved one (e.g. one of the parents).

Characteristics of perfectionism:

For a perfectionist, the word “forbearance” is basically foreign: what matters most is that various activities or tasks “should” be performed in accordance with rules (usually adopted only by himself). This applies to both professional and household duties.

A perfectionist at work can check e.g. the project several dozen times before sending it and give it to the supervisor only when he becomes absolutely sure that everything is fine with it. For a perfectionist there is no half-measures: he either does something right or he doesn’t do it at all. However, we have to distinguish between “good” and “perfect” here.

A minor mistake that most people would simply not care about can inspire a perfectionist with a serious feeling of guilt or anger at oneself. So you could say that for a perfectionist the world is black and white: either something is done right or completely wrong. It may seem that perfectionism in certain professions – e.g. accounting – could even be an expected feature. In practice, however, not necessarily – striving for the task undertaken by the perfectionist to be completed correctly, as it may result in the fact that the task of this will not be completed at all.

In addition, the constant fear of making a mistake can result in a feeling of considerable anxiety and fear. It is worth mentioning here that perfectionism can in some way impoverish human life. It happens that a perfectionist – fearing that he/she will not manage to do something perfectly – will avoid taking on new challenges or responsibilities.

After all, perfectionism is related to the fact that a person displaying this trait tries to be perfect at all costs – so he or she may be afraid of new challenges due to potential failure, which perfectionists hate too well.

How to deal with own perfectionism?

Perfectionism can literally poison life, not only for the person displaying it, but also for the people around them. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with it. First of all, you need to be understanding with yourself. It is worth asking yourself some questions: what happens if you make a minor mistake at work or what happens if one of the dishes in the house is not washed thoroughly? The answer is generally simple: nothing. You just have to realize that every human being has the right to make mistakes and making them not only takes away nothing, but even more – enriches us, helps us to grow. After all, when we make a mistake, only then do we find out what the consequences are and thus avoid committing another mistake in the future. It should also be taken into account that the above-mentioned consequence of perfectionism is the avoidance of engaging in new activities, entertainment and tasks which can take away many beautiful experiences in life.

My work on my perfectionism was very much based on identifying and evaluating my core-beliefs (you can read more about them in separate post). So, instead of believing that “everything needs be perfect” or “I have to be perfect”, I am believing now that “I am good enough and everything I do I do to the best of my abilities”. “Maybe my best isn’t as good as someone else’s, but for a lot of people, my best is enough. Most importantly, for me it’s enough.” L. Stirling