No-one is Perfect!
I finally stopped being all perfectionistic about my perfectionism blog and got started. As someone who works closely with people with perfectionism and researches the effects of perfectionism I’m still not immune to its effects myself. Indeed, my interest in perfectionism derives largely from my own experiences; learning to recognise and acknowledge my perfectionistic tendencies, understanding the effects of my perfectionism on me and those around me, and my journey to becoming less perfectionistic. Or at least a less anxious perfectionist. And on a good day, both...
The term 'perfectionist' is banded about quite freely these days, often used to describe people who have a tendendcy to pay excessive attention to detail. These may be people in the workplace, for example, who get anxious about things not being perfect, strive for flawlessness, think they can do it best, and may criticise others attempts. They can often appear quite stressed and angry. Historically, however, perfectionism has been treated as a more serious condition, with much of the research focused in the clinical world. Those who truly fit the label of 'perfectionist' consistently set unrealistically high standards for themselves and engage in stringent self evaluation, often feeling like they never meet the required standards. This can lead to extreme self-downing and to serious mental and physical illness, such as depression and eating disorders. It is a strong predictor of suicide, particularly in depressive perfectionists.
Many of us have perfectionist 'tendencies', which may manifest in some parts of our lives and not others. My 'perfectionism' is more apparent in my work life than in my home life as I can be more concerned about judgment from others in relation to my work. I recognise that this can lead me at times to spend longer over certain tasks than is necessary, to procrastinate, and to experience some level of anxiety. However, learning to recognise these tendencies has enabled me to flex my perfectionistic thinking and beliefs, to be more appropriate in my striving, and greatly reduced associated anxiety. It has been utterly liberating! I'm not perfect, no-one is...we have to stop believing that we need to be. This forms the basis of the work I do with my clients in helping them to be less perfectionistic.
The following post (What if I'm Not Perfect? What Will They Think?) is the first in a series of short articles about perfectionism, looking at its causes, how it manifests, how to treat it, etc. This first article considers some of the key concerns for perfectionists that drive their perfectionistic thinking and behaviours. Subsequent articles will look at topics such as: how to tackle perfectionistic thinking; adaptive versus maladaptive perfectionism; perfectionism and leadership; perfectionism in adolescents; and more... I hope you find at least some of them interesting and useful.