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Self help blog

Check out our blogs! Get valuable information, tips and tricks for dealing with anxiety, overcoming depression and overall self-care!

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The Not-So-Perfect Side of Perfectionism

June 24, 20233 min read

We’ve all heard the words ‘perfect’, ‘perfection’, ‘perfectionist’, and ‘perfectionism’ more than a dozen times. In the back of our minds, we know what they meant. We sometimes cringe at the thought of one of those words because at one point in our lives, we’ve dealt with people who are perfectionists—or if we are perfectionists, we may have heard or seen the dread or disappointments and hurts in people’s faces when we choose to see things in black and white or right and wrong instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s pause for a second and define what perfectionism is and try to understand why, in reality, there is nothing perfect about it.

Perfectionism is characterized by the desire to be on top of all things, to not commit any mistakes, and to not go any lower than the best. Perfectionists set high expectations for themselves and others. One wrong move or one tiny mistake can mean failure to a perfectionist.

How Do You Know If You or Someone Else is a Perfectionist?

There are different ways perfectionism can manifest. Here are some examples:

  • Setting high standards and expectations for yourself – You want the best of everything and you don’t care if you have the skills to make your expectations happen or to meet your high standards. You may push yourself beyond your limitations in order to achieve what you want and you want to do it flawlessly. You are very critical about your performances and results, which could mean a project may not be finished on time.

  • Setting high standards and expectations for others – You think you are perfect and you want everyone else around you to be the same so you set high standards for them to meet. You are very critical of others’ work and performance, which can lead to strained relationships and high turnover rates, if you are a boss in a company.

  • Measuring yours and others’ success through the status quo – You think that meeting society’s standards of success is the highest achievement. So, if you’ve accomplished something in any other way than what society or tradition has set, you don’t feel like you’ve succeeded. You’ll feel like a fraud and will doubt yourself.

Perfectionism is not all bad though. It can be a force for good, too! Let’s see some positive aspects here:

  • Perfectionists are highly motivated and can accomplish big things because they set high standards for themselves. Once a goal is set, no matter how high and ambitious it is, perfectionists will work hard to achieve it.

  • Perfectionists have high attention to detail. This is because they are very critical of themselves and their work, and even of others. If something does not look right, they redo until it is perfect. They see every tiny detail because they want their work to be without flaws. They are great at producing quality work.

I think that we can utilize perfectionism to work in our favor without it ruining us through self-doubt, negative self-talks, or stress. I think that we can find the balance between the perfect and imperfect. Next time, we’ll talk about how to find that balance.

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Jeanne Prinzivalli

Jeanne Prinzivalli is a licensed psychotherapist working with adult individuals. She supports people on their journey to self-awareness, self-care and overall wellbeing.

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Jeanne Prinzivalli
Therapist + Coach

I help ambitious, anxious women learn how to trust and put themselves first, so they can stop burning themselves out trying to meet other people's expectations.

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