Are you always falling short of your own expectations? Do you have a harsh inner critic that is always on your back, whispering demeaning words? Are you obsessed with excelling? Do you set lofty goals and feel bad when you don’t meet them? If any of these questions resonate with you, you might be a perfectionist, or more accurately, you have a perfectionistic personality type.
There are positive and negative traits of a perfectionist. Positive traits you may possess include reliability, dedication, drive to succeed, persistence, and responsibility. Negative traits include high anxiety, depression, unrealistic expectations, critical to yourself or others, and needing validation.
Filled with good intentions, perfectionists are fair, rational, objective, principled, and want to be regarded as responsible, reliable, and hardworking. They strive to excel in whatever they are tasked with, whether it is self-imposed or not. Details dominate their worldview and they use this ability to produce the best work. At times, perfectionists can seem judgmental and critical. This harshness is often the overflow that is spewed from their extremely harsh inner critic. When they are forced to be in a group, perfectionists can become frustrated with members who do little work or are content to submit work that is less than perfect.
These individuals hold themselves to a high standard and become extremely disappointed when they do not meet their goals. Their self-critical nature can cause them to experience depression and high levels of anxiety. They are often-desired employees because of their reliability, but when their perfectionism becomes very maladaptive, they may miss deadlines because of a fear of judgment.
These people impose their unrealistic standards on others, usually in an attempt to help them. They can come across as critical and mean. Other-oriented perfectionists can be very difficult to be around because they are so harsh. Though their intentions are good, the way they attempt to help can be hurtful.
Filled with the fear that they will never be good enough, this type of perfectionist feels a great deal of pressure to prove he/she is perfect. They value others’ opinions highly and work hard to get rid of the constant guilt that badgers them whenever they make any mistake.
Perfectionism in one area of a person’s life can be a good thing. It pushes top athletes, entrepreneurs, and other professionals to put in long hours to develop their craft. This perfection is generalized and doesn’t negatively affect the person’s life. It can also be seen in career-driven people. They strive to reach the highest potential in their field. In certain careers, such as a pilot or surgeon, no one would want a person who isn’t, at least, a little bit of a perfectionist. That can be downright dangerous!
Perfectionism may begin normally but can progress to its darker side. It, then, begins to take over other parts of the person’s life. The high standards combined with the need for flawlessness sucks the joy from the person’s life. Some extreme perfectionists are the opposite. They don’t excel, they are perfect in their mediocrity. They refuse to do anything that is too challenging so they can avoid failure. These types of people subconsciously sabotage themselves. They set unrealistic goals and stick to them, unaware the aspiration is impossible. This leads to a soul-sucking circle of failure which damages their self-esteem and may lead to depression or despair.
These self-esteem issues, these individuals struggle severely with their perfectionistic personality. They are extremely hard on themselves and must have positive feedback from others to boost their self-worth. Though they may not mean harm, their excessively harsh inner critic can turn to others. They may use harsh words to convince others to see the flaws in their plan or life, but their ultimate goal is to spare the person pain. This may not work as their behavior can be disrespectful.
Some people may not even know they are a perfectionist.
When life is viewed in right or wrong, good or bad, this can cause anxiety. Their thought processes may be rigid and unable to adapt to grey areas. This thinking can extend to relationships, work, school, and other areas.
Perfectionists may be on an extreme workout regimen. If they miss one day, they may believe they have ruined all their months of working out. They may then quit working out altogether.
Because perfectionists have high standards for themselves and their work, they may not trust others to complete tasks. They may often be labeled as micro-managers and will bring a lot of conflict in their workplace if they are in a position of power. When they are addressed about the complaints of their employees, they may assert they are just ensuring the job is done correctly.
Many perfectionists become obsessed with fixing their work before submitting it to anyone. They hyperfocus on the perfect word, color, or any other aspect because they want to ensure their work is the best it can be. This can negatively affect their jobs and may cause them to be terminated, despite their good intentions and hard work.
Perfectionism can be an amazing thing when it is harnessed in a healthy way. It can push people to reach their highest potential and then continue to work on any weaknesses. If you are struggling with maladaptive perfectionism, please talk to a trained health care professional.