- refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.
a doctrine holding that perfection is attainable, especially the theory that human moral or spiritual perfection should be or has been attained.
Welcome to the first blog entry- what better way to start it all by addressing the issue of why we struggle to start or continue in many meaningful activities/relationships/actions in our lives? Also relevant, why did it take me a month to actually post this? #notperfect
Perfectionism is a funny thing, mainly because it’s an oxymoron. Love that word…anyway. The refusal to acknowledge or be comfortable with less than perfect, within the context that nothing is “perfect” makes it such an interesting topic.
There are three key aims to this blog:
- For you to get an understanding of what perfectionism is and isn’t
- Why it matters
- What can we do about it?
What is perfectionism? In the clients that I’ve worked with, it usually looks nothing like “perfectionism”. No one has come in and told me how they wanted to work on being a perfectionist. No one has said, “I try too hard”, how do I help myself.
The main symptoms I see that are affected by perfectionism include anxiety, depression, procrastination, difficulty concentrating, et cetera. This is because we can imagine perfectionism as an inner voice, that’s constantly sitting on our shoulders and telling us – “Great, you’ve reached this goal, what’s next?”
- The relentless striving for extremely high standards (for yourself and/or others) that are personally demanding, in the context of the individual. (Typically, to an outsider the standards are considered to be unreasonable given the circumstances.) We will be referring to this throughout this Information Pack as ‘unrelenting standards’.
- Judging your self-worth based largely on your ability to strive for and achieve such unrelenting standards.
- Experiencing negative consequences of setting such demanding standards, yet continuing to go for them despite the huge cost to you. We would agree that it is generally a good idea to have high standards. Having goals helps you achieve things in life. BUT when these goals are either unachievable or only achievable at great cost, it makes it very difficult to feel good about yourself. This is when perfectionism can be problematic.
Now if most of this resonates with you here are some good questions to ask yourself below- see how much you agree with the statements:
“Nothing good comes from making mistakes
I must do things right the first time
I must do everything well, not just the things I know I’m good at
If I can’t do something perfectly then there is no point even trying I rarely give myself credit when I do well because there’s always something more I could do
Sometimes I am so concerned about getting one task done perfectly that I don’t have time to complete the rest of my work”
Remember, perfectionism can be viewed as a spectrum- there are some things that people care a lot about and will definitely sacrifice time/effort for. However, if this is applied across many areas of your life, or makes things really difficult for you at school, work, relationships etc then it’s worth considering whether you should do something about the level of perfectionism you subscribe to in your life. Remember, the definition of insanity is repeating the same things and expecting change!
Generally in sessions, perfectionism is targeted via:
- Cognitive (thinking) tools examples: challenging thoughts around perfectionism, looking at the benefits/costs of keeping it up, recognising signs of perfectionism e.g. “This is not good enough, people will think xyz of me”
- Behaviourally: Identifying the patterns of actions that perpetuate the perfectionism and acting in different ways.
- Emotions: Tools to manage the feels which are bound to be uncomfortable as change occurs, especially if perfectionism is a deep rooted mind set and behaviour.
Hope this provides some food for thought in living your life!