Most people think that being a perfectionist means that you do everything well and pay attention to detail but this isn’t necessarily the full picture.
There is a lot more to perfectionism than most people think and it’s quite a complicated pattern of thinking and behaving. Many people think that perfectionism means you want to do everything really well and make sure that everything is perfect. This is only a small part of how a perfectionist operates. Perfectionists tend to get their self-worth from achieving and feel that they are unworthy if they are not successful and being productive. Relaxing and just living are foreign concepts to a perfectionist. Here are typical signs that you are a perfectionist.
Your general mantra is “It’s never good enough”
Perfectionists set themselves unrealistic standards. As a result they often don’t manage to achieve their goals. When this happens they become self-critical and engage in self-destructive behaviour. They go in completely the opposite direction and become extremely undisciplined for a while. The pressure they place on themselves cannot be sustained over a long period of time and this is how they end up in a see-saw cycle of trying to be perfect and then letting go completely. It’s like a rat being stuck in a maze and repeating the same cycle over and over again.
You are a rigid thinker
Perfectionists tend to think in very rigid terms. Their thinking is black-and-white and they see life in terms of success and failure with nothing in between. Perfectionists also tend to use the words “must” and “should” regularly. This just places pressure on them and they live life under this constant feeling of threat. Many perfectionists end up stressed and feeling like they are not good enough.
You are highly self-critical
Perfectionists will either manage to achieve their goals, in which case they will reconsider and tend to think that the goal was too easy and therefore they need to try harder. If they don’t meet their goals they become self-critical and try harder. Trying harder is the name of the game when you’re a perfectionist. Very rarely can a perfectionist sit back and give themselves credit for how far they have come or what they have achieved. So despite trying so hard they never really feel that satisfaction and validation that they so desperately crave.
Perfectionistic tendencies tend to come from critical parents. Perhaps your parents only gave you love dependent on your grades at school or perhaps you felt that they would not approve of you in certain ways. Parents who only offer conditional love may inadvertently be creating perfectionists in their own families.
You tend to procrastinate
Self-induced pressure is something that perfectionists know well. In fact they place so much pressure on themselves that they often fear achieving the tasks they have set themselves. As a result procrastination sets in as the perfectionist fears they will not be able to achieve what they’ve set for themselves and they will then feel they are a failure. This destructive cycle leads to unhappiness and low self-worth.
Perfectionists tend to be unhappy because they always want more and very rarely bask in any success they have achieved. They are always onto the next thing and rarely stop to focus on how far they have come. In this way they very rarely enjoy their success or appreciate any sense of self-validation. The irony is that this is what they seek but bever really find when stuck in this cycle.
Below you can see the cycle that perfectionist get stuck in:
You can break free from this destructive cycle by having an appreciation for your small successes. By stepping back and relaxing, you can start to enjoy life more instead of setting an unrealistic pace where you rarely enjoy relationships around you. Perfectionists are task-orientated and they miss the pleasure of connecting with others. Being around others is less achievement orientated so do more of this!
When you really think about it – staying stuck in the cycle below is no way to live consistently. It often leaves people feeling empty and unhappy and many don’t realise their self-destructive ways. I hope this post gives you some insight into changing your task-orientated ways and that you can learn to be more mindful and appreciative of the good that already exists in your life.
There is nothing wrong with being ambitious but not at the expense of your relationships and a slower more simple life.