Most of us will relate to the word ‘perfectionist’ and will probably have images of someone who can’t leave things undone; who sets extremely high standards for themselves and others; often appears stressed and under pressure and seems to be intolerant of those who don’t behave or perform to their high standards.
Perfectionism is one of those character traits that can be a real positive (if channeled correctly) but can also be a big contributor to stress and burnout.
So what are the characteristics of perfectionism?
Fear of failure: You see failure as a reflection on your abilities or your value.
All or nothing thinking: You are very black or white – right or wrong. You have a tendency to extremes.
Defensiveness. You hate criticism and often get very defensive if you think someone is pointing out your weaknesses or (perceived) failures.
Finding faults with yourself and other:. You are often on the lookout for imperfections in yourself and others. You tend to be largely overcritical of any mistakes and feel it’s important to correct people when they make a mistake.
Inflexibility: You have a very high standard for both yourself and other people that is a rigid line that needs to be met. You often say words like ‘must’ ‘should’ have to’ when you speak.
Excessive need for control. You like to control other’s behaviour and thoughts as you see it as helping them from making mistakes (whether they’ve asked for help or not).
Difficulty delegating: You will often say to yourself ‘if you want this done right – do it yourself’. You have a tendency to micromanage others around you.
The biggest concern with perfectionism is the link between these ‘workaholic’ behaviours and the drain on your mental and physical energy. The relentless drive to work to perfection leads to a very rigid thought process and an increase in your body’s (negative) stress response. Perfectionists often experience anxiety over their performance as they feel unable to live up to (often) unrealistic standards.
Often, a perfectionist creates a cycle of behaviour where exacting standards (which cannot be met) leads to more effort in a strive to achieve and then perceived failure which starts the cycle again. This will affect your energy, your emotions and ultimately your relationships, home life, relaxation and your ability to work. The result is often burnout, depression or the inability to cope with your levels of stress.
So, before your perfectionism traits start to manifest in excess stress or failed relationships. Ask yourself some questions and do some reading about how to combat the negative effects of perfectionism and channel the positive traits.
Some websites that might be of interest:-