Are You a Perfectionist ...by Stan Hyman, PhD, LCSW
Being a perfectionist is not necessarily the same as being a high achiever. Perfectionism is often thought to be a maladaptive way of dealing with one’s own insecurity and fears. It is not easy or comfortable but stressful and often disappointing.
Here are some characteristics of a perfectionist. If you have these make sure you read the next article so that you can help yourself.
Very critical: Perfectionists tend to be much more critical of themselves and of others than average. Instead of taking pride in their achievements they are likely to find flaws in almost everything they (or someone else) does, despite its merits.
No middle ground: Perfectionists set high goals, often too high to achieve, thereby setting themselves up to fail. Even if the goal is somewhat accomplished, because he is so critical he will think it a failure. He is an all or nothing at all type of thinker.
Fear of failure: If you think about the process you realize why perfectionists are afraid of failing. Since they are likely to be unsatisfied with their accomplishments they are almost always seeing themselves as failing, therefore they tend to be unhappy or somber much of the time.
Procrastination: They tend to procrastinate because they will worry so much about how something will turn out that they end up in a sort of paralysis. (See my Newsletter on Procrastination).
Defensiveness: Because perfectionists are so critical they are not likely to take constructive criticism well at all. They tend to become defensive and angry with anyone offering them opinions.
Low self-esteem: Perfectionists are often depressed or at least unhappy most of the time. They see themselves as “not perfect” and anything less is unworthy.
Inflexible: Flexibility or adaptability is a sign of good mental health and goes a long way in fostering creativity. Perfectionists are often inflexible and unable to ease up and relax.
Perfectionism is not hereditary. It is not in your genes so you can learn to change it by recognizing your traits and working to improve them. If you want to become more easygoing and less rigid read on.
Enjoy the process: Stay in the NOW! Don’t over concern yourself with the end product of your work but how well the process is going. Enjoying the process is key to success.
Goal setting: Set goals that are simple, achievable and have clear objectives included. When you complete an objective (a step in the goal process) congratulate yourself and mean it!
Face the fear: Whenever you feel anxious about what you are doing ask yourself why. Recognize that everyone gets anxious about achieving success and that it should not cause you to become paralyzed.
Review your successes: Reflect on what you have achieved and be proud of it! Almost everyone can point to something they have worked for and achieved so don’t sell yourself short.
Welcome constructive criticism: Learn to take criticism, especially from people you respect, and use it to improve. Defensiveness is your enemy, learn to be open minded.
Adapt: If something is not working then try something else. Don’t let yourself get stuck in self-recriminations. Adaptability or flexibility enhances creativity and keeps your mind resilient.