Perfectionism is a hard taskmaster. It’s a two-headed monster telling you you’re not good enough or causing you to feel like you’re better than everyone else. If that’s not confusing enough, researchers say there are some positive sides to being a perfectionist. How do you know if you’re a perfectionist? Here are 10 behaviors that can help you decide if perfectionism is ruling your life and how to stop it or encourage it.
What is a perfectionist?
Everybody struggles with wanting to be perfect. It’s addictive. It can look like wanting a perfect relationship, being a perfect parent, or having the perfect job. This is very normal. Most people know that perfection isn’t reachable, but for some individuals, perfectionism drives them to strive for unrealistic goals or unattainable ideals.
There’s been a lot of research on perfectionism’s dark side, but researchers find there may be a bright side to some perfectionist behaviors.
1 – Positive perfectionist behavior
Some healthy aspects studies show, to what is called “normal perfectionism.” individuals who have high standards without having a negative self-assessment mixed with it are normal perfectionists. These people have high standards but don’t worry about making mistakes. If you’re a normal perfectionist, you can adapt even despite your striving for excellence.
2 – Negative perfectionist behavior
Studies show that if you’re a negative perfectionist, you’ll have unrealistic goals and extreme standards. You’ll tend to feel it’s imperative to be perfect and may punish yourself if you don’t reach what you feel is perfection. Negative perfectionist’s unrealistic goals usually fail, so you’re left feeling anxious, inadequate, and depressed.
10 behaviors of a negative perfectionist
Understanding what motivates you to do what you do is important. If you suspect you’re a negative perfectionist, here are 10 behaviors that you may seek in yourself.
1 – You feel anxiety when you make a mistake
Recent studies found that there is a clear connection between perfectionist behavior and anxiety. If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll try to avoid mistakes at all costs. Sometimes you’ll miss out on opportunities to learn new things because of this. Errors are huge events for you if you’re a perfectionist. They increase your anxiety about your performance at work, at school, and even at home. You’ll be prone to overthink a failed situation to the point of exhaustion because you can’t let it go. You may blame yourself, or you’ll look to blame someone else.
2 – Discontentment
When you’re a negative perfectionist, you are constantly frustrated with your life’s imperfections, looks, family, and house. Your standard of measure is quite high. Even if you know that it’s not possible to be perfect in all these aspects of life, you’ll still feel discontent. The weird thing is that some perfectionists set these high standards but don’t do the hard work it can take to attain the goals. It’s a self-defeating way to live.
3 – Critical of others
Perfectionists are often highly critical of others. The standard of measure they use for others is as unattainable as the one they set for themselves. Still, they’ll be very frustrated that others don’t reach these standards.
4 – Performance-oriented
If you struggle with perfectionism, you’ll fear not being accepted. You try to be perfect for protecting yourself from rejection. Getting other people’s approval is very important to you. You may dress, talk, and act like someone you admire because you think you’ll be more accepted if you’re like them rather than being yourself. Some perfectionistic adults are very successful but yet struggle with feelings of insecurity about what people think about them.
5 – Body image issues
Striving for perfection can result in body image problems. You may exercise to an extreme or have an eating disorder to stay thin. When you get compliments about how good you look, it feeds your perfectionism. You perceive that thinness and being physically fit the standard of perfection.
6 – Feel like a failure
As a perfectionist, your thinking can become distorted by your own perception of perfection. As a perfectionist, you may feel two simultaneous things: you’re a complete failure or a complete success. You have no middle ground. It’s an all-or-nothing view of life. That’s why you can win accommodation at your job for doing good work but still feel like a failure in your job. Perfectionists always feel like they should have done more.
7 – Overcompensate
If you’re a perfectionist, you may be an overachiever to the extreme. You may overcompensate out of fear of something going wrong. If you’re in leadership, you’ll micromanage people checking to see that everything is done perfectly and that all your standards are being met. This is difficult for the people you manage who may feel like you don’t trust their ability or judgment on the job.
As a perfectionist, you are concerned with what others think about you, so getting constructive feedback is really hard to accept. Even if it’s shared in a good way, it still feels like disapproval. You’ll feel defensive and ready to defend yourself. It makes sense since you have a strong desire to succeed, but it can be counterproductive because the feedback could help you become successful.
9 – Extremely cautious in life
Studies found that most successful people aren’t perfectionists. This is because perfectionism gets in the way of your creativity, productivity, and taking risks. When you’re a perfectionist, you fight many fears. Your fear of failure may stifle risk-taking, or fear of being humiliated will stop you from being independent.
10 – Procrastinate
Do you make lots of plans, spread a lot of time trying to get organized, but never getting around to actually doing anything? This is a strange habit of perfectionists who have high goals for themselves and life but feel intimidated to step out and try since they can’t do it perfectly. Writers are notorious for brainstorming for a book, setting their plot, characters, and conflict, but then never sitting down and write the book.
Why are you a perfectionist?
Many things can contribute to being a perfectionist. Basically, at the root of all perfectionism is the thinking that your self-worth is based upon your achievements.
These things may influence this thinking:
- Cultural expectations: Certain cultures set high expectations on kids to achieve academically. It can transfer to adulthood.
- Need for control of your life: If you grew up in a chaotic home, you might feel the need as an adult to control your life by being a perfectionist.
- Rigid upbringing: If your parents had rigid rules, you might feel the need to strive for perfection. Good achievement may have equaled love and attention.
- Too much praise for your achievement: Parents can unintentionally make their kids feel like they need to perform to get their love when giving excess praise to their children.
There isn’t one single cause of perfectionism. It’s usually a combination of your upbringing, your personality, and your experiences. So, if you’re wondering why you’re a perfectionist, you may never know. But figuring out that you’re a perfectionist is half the battle. Now, you can start loosening the vise grip that perfectionism has on your life.
How to stop being a perfectionist
1 – Recognize it
When perfectionism raises its ugly head, be ready to see it. Remember that high standards are okay, but don’t mix them with your self-assessment. Don’t let your high standards stop you from taking risks or accepting constructive criticism that can help you grow.
2 – Don’t believe everything you tell yourself
Like everyone else, you have a running conversation going inside your head. Stop listening to the critical things you tell yourself and start telling yourself what’s true. Tell yourself that your self worth isn’t based upon your achievements, your looks, or how intelligent you are. You’re more than your achievements, and you’re more than your mistakes. Perfectionism wants you to believe that you’re better than everyone else or that you’re worse than everyone else. Don’t believe either lie.
3 – It will take time to change, and that’s okay
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying goes, and you won’t change in a day, or a week, or even in a week. Tiny consistent day by day steps towards breaking free of perfectionism is how change happens. Try to ease up on your rigid goals for yourself and others. Be more willing to forgive others’ mistakes. Find joy in small victories, like not feeling like a failure if you make a mistake.
Perfectionism is harsh. It dominates your mind and limits your ability to be yourself. Once you realize you have perfectionistic behaviors, you can begin to loosen the tight grip it has on your life. You can enjoy the freedom of not being overly cautious because you’re afraid to make a mistake or feel self-condemned that you didn’t reach perfection.