If you are wondering whether you’re a perfectionist, you probably are… or at least to a degree. Maybe you’re the mild, occasionally self-critical type or maybe you’re a blazing hot control freak. No matter what end of the spectrum you fall closest to, perfectionism can take hold of your life in many unexpected ways. And if we’re being honest, you have probably viewed perfection as a badge to wear proudly. In the general sense, being “perfect” sounds amazing, but when we really start to think about what it means, that badge seems more like a flashing hazard sign than the first-place ribbon.
Are you controlling in your personal and professional relationships? Do you often feel like you fail at everything you try? Procrastinate regularly or never finish what you start? Again…. you’re probably a perfectionist. People with perfectionism hold themselves to impossibly high standards. They think what they do is never good enough, that there is always more to improve.
Perfectionism can make you unhappy with your life. It can lead to sadness, depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. It can also lead you to stop trying to succeed at all. Even mild cases can interfere with your quality of life, affecting your relationships, your work and your ability to function.
At Perfectaholic, we are on a mission to help recovering perfectionists embrace the wonderfully imperfect and unpredictable vibrancy of life.
Below you will find our red flag characteristics of being “PERFECT” and ways these traits may show up for you or those that you love. You don’t have to exhibit all of these traits, but most perfectionist will be able to relate to more than one.
Fear of Failure
Perfection can sometimes show up as people-pleasing, especially among women. Women are often socialized to be caretakers and to put other people’s needs before their own. They worry about what other people think of them and say “yes” to avoid displeasing others and in an effort to feel loved. There is also the notion of “having it all” which puts tremendous pressure on women to work tirelessly, self-sacrifice, not ask for help, and do it all perfectly. Women with perfectionist tendencies associate their achievements (whether as a mother, employee, volunteer, or athlete, etc.) with their self-worth.
Perfectionists only see black or white. Something is either right or wrong, good or bad, perfect or a sh*t show. They think in extremes. For example, because they missed one workout on their new fitness routine, they may just decide they are not cut out to get fit, so they quit. Perfectionists will accept nothing less than perfection. “Almost perfect” is not perfect, it is a failure.
Perfectionists do not enjoy the process of chasing a goal. They are interested in the goal itself and nothing else. They’re so concerned about meeting the goal that they seldom can enjoy the process of growing and striving toward it. Perfectionists strive for excellence oftentimes because of the validation they receive in others’ reactions to their success.
Fear of Failure
Perfectionists place so much stock in results and “winning” that they become disappointed by anything less than perfection. Failure becomes an extremely scary outlook. And, since anything less than perfection is seen as failure, perfectionists also tend to procrastinate in an effort to avoid that failure. Perfectionists will sometimes worry so much about doing something imperfectly that they become paralyzed by that fear and fail to do anything at all.
Perfectionists often set their goals out of reach. They may think they can go from “zero to 100” within a short amount of time, but the reality is this goal is unrealistic, unattainable, and therefore the perfectionist is unable to succeed. Perfectionists tend to overlook baby steps and increments in favor of setting a goal that no reasonable person can achieve. For example, a perfectionist may set a goal to run a marathon in a month when they have been immobile and can barely walk up the stairs without getting winded. This is an unrealistic expectation and is a textbook version of setting yourself up for failure.
Perfectionists have demanding standards for themselves and others, and they tend to focus on mistakes and perceived flaws. Once they hone in on imperfections, they have trouble seeing anything else. As an example, perfectionists often fixate on something they messed up. They may have done something right, but still focus instead on the one mistake they made. Perfectionists believe in always giving their best and expect others to do the same. When “failure” does occur, they are more judgmental and tough on themselves and on others. They can also be lonely or isolated as their critical nature and rigidity can push others away.
Perfectionists don’t think they can trust anyone to do the job as well as they can so they tend to be micro-managers and control freaks. This lack of trust in others’ talents also manifests in perfectionists’ inability to take constructive criticism. Because a less-than-perfect performance is so painful and scary for them, they don’t view criticism as valuable information, but instead see it as a personal attack or a justification as to why the one providing the criticism is not capable of the task at hand.