What is Perfectionism?
Perfectionists aspire to achieve, but do not allow themselves to make mistakes. They search for imperfections or weaknesses in themselves and others. Perfectionists strive for flawlessness and set impossibly high standards for themselves. They are often harshly critical of their own performance. Perfectionism is different than striving for excellence. People who pursue excellence in a healthy way take genuine pleasure in working to meet high standards. Perfectionists are motivated by self-doubt, fear of disapproval, ridicule, and rejection. Positive feelings about self are connected to achievement at superior levels. The perfectionist is driven to succeed and becomes anxious when self-imposed goals cannot be achieved.
It is helpful to divide perfectionism into two subtypes. The first is the organized type, characterized by being neat, tidy, structured, planned, prepared, and ordered. This person feels judged by the appearance of external aspects of life such as the way they look, housework, neatness of personal space, grades, speech, presentation, clothing, and the behavior of one’s children. The second is the driven type, characterized by being ambitious, determined, focused, and motivated. The driven type often strives for high achievement, being single-minded and overly focused on certain goals to the detriment of important relationships or other crucial aspects of life. Frequently the focus on performance and achievement squeeze out joy and contentment in life.
Get Control of Perfectionism
Once you are aware of the ways in which you expect yourself to be perfect, you can start to change your behavior. Change occurs as you recognize your imperfections and accept your humanness. Create a support network for yourself. Seek out people who are not perfectionists to keep you on an honest course. Look for people who forgive and forget when mistakes, failures, offenses, or backsliding occur. Ask them to give you positive reinforcement for any positive change, no matter how small and give feedback when you are being rigid, unrealistic, or idealistic in your behavior. Try to find people who have a sincere interest in your personal growth.
Lower Your Expectations
You cannot expect to completely change your behavior or expectations immediately. Take small, intentional steps toward change. Although a difficult concept for the perfectionist, consider shooting for average. Use words to describe your efforts and accomplishments such as: ordinary, usual, customary, Okay, normal, standard, and good enough. Using the language of average will allow you to adjust your thinking and your behavior and free you from the fear of never being good enough.
Recovery is a Journey. Enjoy the Ride!