Never Good Enough: Battling Perfectionism
Profile of a Perfectionist
There’s a name for what Sally is battling—it’s called perfectionism, and unfortunately it’s all too common in our world today. I have already introduced the types of perfectionism and the effects it can have on a person’s thinking; in this article, I would like to discuss the profile of a perfectionist. Knowing what a perfectionist looks like may help you understand whether or not this is an issue with which you struggle.
1. Perfectionists are Detailed Oriented & Cling to Rules and Structure
Perfectionists “lose the forest through the trees” (Basco, 1999). They get stuck little details and forget the big picture. For example, when studying for a test the perfectionist notices their notes are messy and spends hours recopying their notes, leaving almost no time to study all the chapters for the test. Not only are perfectionists focused on minutia they have rigid rules and a very strict sense of right and wrong, for example there is a right and wrong way to clean the house. They impose a lot “shoulds” for themselves: “I should be thin, I should not sleep in, I should clean my house, I should like to cook,” etc…
2. Perfectionists Fear Failure
Perfectionists equate their performance with their worth and value, so when they fail to accomplish their goals their worth decreases. With this belief the perfectionist’s sense of value is always in flux because it’s based on their performance and other’s approval, which is ever changing.
3. Perfectionists Fear Making Mistakes
Perfectionists hate to make mistakes to the point where it causes them psychological pain because they associate mistakes with failure. They experience intense humiliation especially when others witness their mistakes. Following a mistake the perfectionists will engage in self-loathing thoughts, beating themselves self up for perceived error. Mistakes are avoided at all costs even if it involves checking and rechecking their work. Because perfectionists avoid risks they often miss opportunities to learn and grow.
4. Perfections Doubt and Criticize Themselves
Perfectionists tend to have low self-confidence and struggle with feeling inferior. They would rather be silent than to suggest a new idea and be vulnerable to the criticisms of others. They agonize about making the right decision. Fear invades their thoughts, sounding like, “My ideas are not good enough, people will laugh at me, I will look stupid.” And when they step out to take a risk and make a mistake, self-criticism is sure to follow. The ever-present question to the perfectionist is: Will I be good enough?
5. Perfectionists Fear Disapproval
Perfectionists believe that if others see their flaws they will reject them. They can be very sensitive to criticisms or differing opinions, so perfectionism is a form of a protection. “If I am perfect people cannot hurt or reject me.” This need for approval also continues to fuel the performance cycle: “When I succeed I get attention, but when I don’t people do not notice me and disapprove of me.”
6. Perfectionists Have Unrealistic Expectations
Perfectionists expect much from themselves. They feel pressure to be the best and do right ALL the time. Deep down perfectionists are trying to proving their self worth and are relentless in their pursuit of their goals. This striving to measure up often comes at the cost of themselves.
7. Perfectionists Are Preoccupied by Neatness and Organization
Perfectionists tend to well dressed and groomed and like neatness and order. They tend to get overwhelmed by details and chaos.
8. Perfectionists Distrust Others
Distrust in others abilities to get a job done is often equated with perfectionists. They tend to not be good delegators and end up doing projects by themselves. Relationally, perfectionistic may be very private and cautious to trust others to witness their true selves.
Christian Counseling for Perfectionism
If you recognized some of these qualities in your own life, you may be struggling with perfectionism. This can be an isolating and debilitating condition, and I urge you not to battle it alone. Christian counseling offers a great way to address the underlying issues that can lead to perfectionist behaviors. A Christian counselor can be a voice of affirmation and insight, and he or she can use therapeutic techniques and Biblical insight to empower you to live free from perfectionism.
Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net “Stressed Business woman With Document Folders” and “Woman with Head Ache” by Michal Marcol