People often have the word ‘perfectionist’ written somewhere on their CV or may even use the term for the “What are your weaknesses?” question in an interview “I’m a perfectionist so when something isn’t executed in the way that I intended it to then this affects me immensely” – I myself am a culprit of this. But does being a perfectionist make you more employable or does it create more problems? People view being a perfectionist as a positive that increases the chances of success however the reality is it makes it harder to achieve goals which can then cause stress and anxiety.
The meaning of perfect in the dictionary is ‘as good as it is possible to be’ – but is that realistic? Surely this is insinuating that there’s no space to grow and evolve? Of course, being a perfectionist isn’t a completely negative attribute to have in your persona because it motivates over achievers to pursue high standards and new visions as there is no margin for error. There is a lot of talk about why being a perfectionist is good however there’s little talk about the damage of working with a control freak. Setting standards that are too high devalues the work because it may not meet the impossible standards that have been set. There are said to be three types of perfectionism self-oriented perfectionism is when individuals impose it on themselves, socially prescribed perfectionism is where individuals feel others expect them to be perfect and other oriented is when individuals impose impossible standards on others.. dance moms come to mind!
Signs of being a perfectionist
- Not able to perform tasks if you are not certain they can be executed ‘perfectly’.
- Focus on the end product rather than the process of learning and developing their skills.
- Don’t see a task as completed until the end result is up to their own standards.
- Procrastination – perfectionists may not want to begin a project until they know they can execute it ‘perfectly’.
- Takes an excessive amount of time to complete a task that typically doesn’t take others as much time to complete.
Admittedly prior to researching around the deeper meaning as to why people are perfectionists, I assumed it was an attribute you aspire to have however from a psychologist’s point of view these are the real reasons as to why people want to be ‘perfect’:
- Frequent fear of disapproval from others or an insecurity of being inadequate.
- Mental health issues like anxiety or OCD. Whilst a correlation between OCD and perfectionism has been found, not all people with perfectionism will have OCD, and not all people with OCD are perfectionists.
- Having a parent who have ‘perfectionist tendencies’ or expresses disapproval when their children’s efforts do not result in perfection. Some parents may encourage their child to succeed in every area or push perfection on them to an extent that can be considered abusive.
- People who had a troubled attachment with parents when they were young may have trouble with self-soothing as adults. They may have trouble accepting a good outcome if it’s not ‘perfect’.
Setting yourself high standards can be great for challenging yourself however putting too much pressure on yourself to meet those standards can be detrimental. Learn from your mistakes and allow them to help you grow and develop into a resilient human being.
Written By Sophia Ghahramani