Most people like perfection. You want to do a good job and have things align flawlessly, which is an admirable trait. So, being a perfectionist isn’t always a bad thing until the need to have everything picture-perfect becomes toxic.
Striving to do things correctly and having a good work ethic is impressive. However, when the thoughts that everything must be perfect consume you, they can take over your entire life. When something is less than you envisioned, you feel angry with yourself and those around you.
The real problem with being a perfectionist isn’t that everything must be impeccable and you must always be on top. Consequently, the crux of the matter goes much deeper, as these ideations can hurt you and those you love. Something is fundamentally wrong on the inside when you think you can’t be anything less than perfect.
Twelve Signs of a Toxic Perfectionist
Perfectionists don’t understand that they’re chasing the avoidance of failure rather than pursuing excellence. Something fundamental happened along the way that made you feel inferior to those around you. It can stem from depression, anxiety disorders, and growing up in a home where you didn’t feel loved and appreciated. Here are some classic signs of toxic perfectionism.
1. A Toxic Perfectionist Can’t Take Any Criticism
If you want everything in your life to be picture-perfect, you likely have difficulty dealing with criticism. Even constructive criticism can send you over the edge. You don’t like making mistakes, and when someone points out such things, you only hear, “you’re not good enough.” People who want perfectionism hold high standards they live by, and when someone offers advice, they feel attacked and defensive.
2. Feeling Unsatisfied
While you strive for perfection, you likely don’t do well under stress. You work best in a low-stress environment, as you can’t deal with anything that challenges you. Folks with the mindset that everything must be perfect often have issues when the things they envision don’t happen as they should. These moments are unsettling and increase their anxiety, but they also decrease the satisfaction they feel in life.
3. A Toxic Perfectionist Avoids Socializing
Someone who has a mindset of perfection might avoid socializing. The rationale behind this is that they need to uphold the perfect self-image. These individuals fear that if people get to know the real them that they wouldn’t be liked.
It’s not uncommon for them to put intense pressure on themselves to wear specific social masks. Some of the pressure they feel is socially prescribed. For instance, women often think they need precise measurements and a certain weight to be acceptable. If someone isn’t a size two with blonde hair and blue eyes, they might avoid social gatherings for fear they would be judged.
The struggle with not socializing is that it’s a lonely world when you’re all alone. Socializing is healthy and necessary, and isolating yourself can lead to mental health issues.
4. Superior Work Ethic
Remember the movie Beauty and the Beast? Gaston was trying to win the heart of Belle, and he was a classic narcissist. He felt he was the better man for her because he had everything to offer her.
He was severely depressed, and the town folks gathered and sang a song to him about all his power and might. While it’s a fairy tale, there’s a lot of truth to unpack. Perfectionists believe that no one can be as good as them. They think they’re always the best person for the job, and it can be devastating when they take a fatal blow to their ego.
5. A Toxic Perfectionist Is a Master Procrastinator
Perfectionists often are procrastinators. They have many ideas swimming around, but few come to fruition. They know what they need to do. However, their high standards make it impossible to know where to start.
They often become overwhelmed by all the steps and look at the entire project instead of small, manageable pieces. The key is jumping in and getting started, but these individuals contemplate how they can fail, making it challenging to accomplish anything.
6. Misses Deadlines
When you were in school, how many times did you tear up a paper and throw it away because it wasn’t good enough? Did you ever miss any of your deadlines for assignments? People with toxic perfectionism often miss deadlines because they will only turn in something they view as perfect.
So, they will try time and again to get something they feel is worthy of their reputation. Sadly, this causes them to miss deadlines at work, school, and home because their mindset has them going in circles.
7. Everything Must Be Done Their Way
The phrase “It’s my way or the highway” was probably created with a toxic perfectionist in mind. These individuals can’t see things any way but through their lenses. They can’t for one moment consider anyone else’s opinion.
This mindset’s controlling nature is at the helm, and the underlying issue must be addressed. Thinking that things will always go your way is unrealistic. According to Harvard University, many behaviors are rooted in toxic perfectionism, such as failing to delegate and not knowing when to stop. The article further states that many folks overcompensate in this area because they feel they lack in others.
8. Plays The Blame Game
Rather than admit that they’ve fallen short, these folks would rather blame others for their mistakes. The perfectionist can cross over into the lines of a narcissist, as both issues have similar characteristics.
It’s much too painful for the person who wants everything just right to see their failures, so if something doesn’t turn out as it should, they would rather point fingers.
9. Doesn’t Celebrate Success
Celebrating milestones and success in your personal and professional life is unnecessary to the toxic perfectionist. These individuals think that celebrating things is for babies, and they’ve had so many successful things happen in their lives that they would constantly be partying.
However, this isn’t why they don’t celebrate; inside, they feel they could have done better. Nothing is ever good enough, according to their toxic mindset.
10. A Toxic Perfectionist Believes People Won’t Like Them Unless They’re Perfect
It’s not uncommon for perfectionists to equate their self-worth with their job. They don’t understand that people see them as passionate, having a sense of humor, or all the other wonderful qualities they possess. Rather, they measure their worth by the things they do.
Consider Robert. He was a man who never graduated from high school, yet he worked hard as a mechanic and made his way into the world with his excellent work ethic. He always felt less than others because he didn’t finish his education, and the abuse from his childhood also fueled the mindset that he wasn’t good enough.
Robert worked until his body gave out at 70, always trying to prove something. The sad thing is the people around him knew he was a hard worker and had many gifts and talents. The real problem is that, on the inside, he always felt inferior.
This story is a classic example that you can’t measure your worth by your actions, as people will love you regardless of how you work. Folks will love you for the exceptional qualities you possess.
11. Small Mistakes Feel Like Huge Failures
Have you ever seen someone who makes mountains out of molehills? Perfectionists often blow everything out of proportion because their mindset is geared towards negativity, and they cannot see the positive. Even the smallest infraction is cause for alarm because their brain magnifies the issue.
12. A Toxic Perfectionist Engages in Self-Sabotaging Behaviors
Toxic mindsets cause perfectionists to ruminate on harmful beliefs. They often use negative self-talk and tell themselves things like:
- “I’m worthless.”
- “I will never be good enough.”
- “My life has no meaning.”
- “I’m undeserving of love.”
While none of these things are true, they’re setting themselves up for failure. They use perfectionism as a cover for what’s going on inside. According to an article by Anderson University, perfectionism is a faulty belief system. The mindset these folks have is self-destructive and addictive. While they believe being perfect is the key to their success, it hampers achievement.
The article further discusses that perfectionism is a defensive move, as this person has deep-seated issues that they don’t want others to see.
Final Thoughts on Knowing the Signs of a Toxic Perfectionist
You can overcome perfectionism if you get to the root cause and manage it. Those who occasionally want things to be perfect don’t have an issue, but it’s those folks who stress and worry excessively if everything isn’t picture perfect.
Learn to embrace your flaws as you’re human. Learn from your failures instead of sweeping them under the rug and blaming someone else. You can develop a healthier, more rewarding, and less toxic mindset, but it will require effort.