I have a friend of mine who wants to be a perfectionist. Everything in his life must be done literally perfectly, no mistakes or imperfections, no failings or deviations, no slip ups, no inconsistencies. Constantly on alert, he is striving to be the best. Perfectionism is his way of living, always wishing to reach the ideal. Actually, the main problem is not his perfectionism, but his irrational belief that is okay for him to be perfectionist. I understand it, because perfectionist often don't realize that he is hurting him selves by own actions.
I like to help friend of mine. This article is for him, for a fiend of mine who wants to be a perfectionist.
If you believe in a perfection, you need first to read this article and than express your opinion. You will be surprised by the underlying motives present in the fear of failure.
What irrational beliefs contribute to the perfectionism?
Being loser! I know nobody wants to be a loser but for a perfectionist his consciousness tells him: you are a loser if you cannot be perfect, successful and number one achiever. What he achieves is more important than who is he. For him life has no value unless he is Number One. Simply, the perfectionist has learned early in life that other people valued him because of how much he achieved. As a result, he has learned to value himself only because of other's approval.
Fear of failure, disapproval or making mistakes are perfectionist's nightmares!
They don't want to accept a simple statement: I am a human being prone to error, frailty and imperfections. No, perfectionist is driven by an intense need to avoid failure and mistakes. This is a set of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.
Idealism, driven by an intense need to avoid failure is always in perfectionist's mind. He must always reach the ideal in everything, because it is the ideal that give him meaning to life. If he is not able to accomplish things in a perfect or ideal way, he won't starts at all and he will give up his goal. This is his way of trying to protect him from criticism, rejection, and disapproval.
A deep feeling of inferiority is another characteristic of perfectionist. Lack of belief in himself and knowing that he will never be able to achieve an idyllic goal can lead a perfectionist to lose the belief in self. He is not able to live with him selves.
Pessimism and depression are consequences of perfectionism. Needless is to say that always being perfect is impossible task and easily a perfectionist runs the risk of feeling down, blue, and depressed.
Learning more of perfectionist's beliefs, we can conclude this concept of perfectionism: if self esteem is based primarily on external standards, this can leads to vulnerability and sensitivity to the opinions and criticisms of others. In attempting to protect him from such criticism, perfectionists may decide: being perfect is defense and protection and only way of existence.
At first glance maybe this may seems beneficial and harmless, but it's not.
Writing on perfectionism I would like to clarify definition of perfectionism. Perfectionism is not a healthy pursuit of excellence, therefore do not mix healthy goal setting with perfectionism. They are not the same! As someone said: the healthy striver has drive, while the perfectionist is driven! It's hard to distinguish motivation for healthy achievement from unhealthy perfectionism. Especially in western society there are so many myths on perfectionism, which makes everything more complicated to understand. For the benefits of friend of mine and many others perfectionists I will explore some of the very common myths.
First myth is: perfection leads to success! True or false?
False: perfectionism does not lead success despite that some perfectionists are very successful or more successful than non- perfectionist. According to psychologists there is evidence: with the same level of abilities, skills and intellect, perfectionists are less successful than their counterparts. Believe it or not, but true.
Who is procrastinator and who misses the deadlines: perfectionist or non-perfectionist?
If your guess is perfectionist - you are right. Basically, perfectionists are, so called, "all-or-nothing" thinkers, meaning that perfectionist seeing any event as either good or bad, with nothing between these extremes. Such thinking leads to procrastination.
I have heard another statement: perfectionist is ready to overcome any difficulties and obstacles just to reach their goal. Unfortunately, that`s just another a myth! Contrary to the myth, a perfectionist is very vulnerable to any obstruction. Why is like that? Simply, because a perfectionist's center of attention is always result, not the process of reaching the goal itself! As part of the team, perfectionist will be the very first member who will sabotage the project! Don't forget, perfectionist is driven by low-self-esteem.
What's the difference between great achievers and a perfectionist?
In one sentence: the great achievers will accept mistakes, failures, problems and imperfections, as part of being human: a perfectionist won't!
I don't want to leave you with wrong impression that perfectionist are "a bad people". No, they are not. That personality has positive aspects, too. A positive aspect is that perfectionism can provides the driving energy, which leads to great achievement. But, if perfectionist refuses to live with anything less than ideal, and if they are never satisfied, they are in trouble.
This attitude set in motion a vicious cycle. First, perfectionists set unreachable goals. Secondly, they fail to meet these goals, because the goals are impossible. Third, the constant pressure to achieve perfection reduces productivity and effectiveness. Fourth, this cycle leads perfectionists to be self-critical and self-blaming which results in lower self- esteem. They think people are just waiting to catch them in their imperfections. This may lead to further anxiety and depression.
Because of this cycle, perfectionist has the difficulty in getting close to other people and therefore, has less satisfactory personal relationships. Perfectionist has a hard time accepting friendships and love from others.
What the perfectionist can do to change himself?
The first step is: he must realize that perfectionism is undesirable behavior, an illusion, not real state of being. Then the person can change his way of thinking, by changing his mental attitude first, then person will learn that the world will not end because he is not perfect.
The next step is to change these self defeating thoughts and behaviors which are the fuel for perfectionism. If a perfectionist is able to focus on doing and enjoying the task, to focus on an activity, not just on the result, then the person will be able to overcome his imperfection. Perfectionist needs support from people who will give him positive reinforcement for any positive change, no matter how small or slight it is.
As for any other fear, perfectionist should confront the fear of failure and imperfection by asking himself: what am I afraid of? What's so wrong by making mistakes? What is the worst thing that could happen?
They need to learn how to gain satisfaction from their achievement and how to learn from their mistakes seeing failure for what it really is: an opportunity to discover that future success lies in another tactics or direction.
The biggest challenge for perfectionist, and not only for him, but for many others characters, is how to deal with a criticism.
Nobody wants to make mistakes, nobody wants to be loser and everyone wants to be successful. I have no problem with that. I have a problem when people seeing criticism as a personal attack. Criticism is a tragedy for a perfectionist. If someone criticizes him for making a mistake, a perfectionist cannot acknowledge the mistake and assert his right to make mistakes.
With this article I just wanted to help friend of mind who is a perfectionist. My intention was to protect him from the destructive nature of perfectionism and from not accepting himself as a human being, forgiving himself for mistakes or failings.
By the way: who wants to be a perfectionist?