Perfectionism: Healthy or unhealthy?

Job interviews are notorious for asking the question, “So what is your biggest flaw?” We have all been there, and we most likely have had the same answer, “I am a perfectionist.”

Perfectionism is the perfect character flaw, that somehow isn’t really a character flaw.

Or is it?

We choose perfectionism to flaunt to future employers because it demonstrates that we are high achieving, hard working individuals with high standards for quality. Perfectionism is a highly debatable character trait that society seems to embrace more so then mental health professionals, but why?

Perfectionism is defined as a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less. It is a relentless striving for extremely high standards. Perfectionism can be a dangerous ideology in a less than perfect world, surrounded by less than perfect people. Often perfectionists begin to judge their self worth largely based on their ability to strive for and achieve unrelenting standards. Perfectionism tends to leave individuals vulnerable to distress, and haunted by a chronic sense of failure.

If you fear that your perfectionism may actually be harmful to your well being, take a step back and evaluate how perfectionism has impacted your life.

Have you experienced negative consequences of setting such high standards?

Do you continue to strive for perfection despite a large cost to you?

Have you stopped asking for help or not delegate tasks because you want to be in control?

Do you expect perfection out of your spouse, children or friends?

Do you avoid doing new things out of fear you will not be good at it?

Do others express to you that you are difficult to please?

These are not conclusive questions, just something to reflect on. It may be helpful to weigh out the useful and not so useful components of being a perfectionist to determine if it has become an unhealthy aspect in your life. Perfectionists also tend to struggle to ask for help, as it is in their nature to be self sufficient and in control. Perfectionism can lead to a particular vulnerability to mental health problems, and asking for help can be difficult.

Perfectionism usually develops out of someone’s environment. Often times parents will instill a pursuit of perfection in their children. As you age this positive trait of hard work and determination can turn into an overwhelming desire to please and overachieve. It is important to realize that the pursuit of perfection is not always a bad thing. It is learning how to cope with falling short of perfection without undermining your worth as a human being as well as learning how to prioritize your desire for perfection that is vital for your well being.

If you feel as though your perfectionism has begun to overwhelm your life, you can make steps to keep this personality trait at bay. Psychologists can help you explore the role perfectionism plays in your life. Book in a time to speak to a psychologist by calling (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

Letting Go of Control in Your Relationships
Decision Making Guide for Busy People’s Schedules
Procrastination: Your Perfectionism may be the Problem


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