Licensed Psychologist

Perfectionism

“Your slip is showing.” With these words a client of mine gleefully entered my office. While I was not particularly concerned, my fashion mishap had clearly made her day. What was going on? I certainly do not see myself as a perfectionist but compared to her somewhat disorganized life style I must have given that impression.

Wikipedia defines perfectionism as a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding the evaluations of others. A perfectionist refuses to accept any standard short of perfection. For most people, this is an impossible goal.

We all know people who always look put together or have the most immaculate desks, cars or homes. At first glance, we may envy or admire them. Certainly, it is good to have high standards, and they can lead to accomplishments, but pursuing excellence doesn’t require perfection. In fact, living by excessively high standards may not be worth the cost of maintaining them. To quote Maria Shriver “Perfectionism doesn’t make you feel perfect, it makes you feel inadequate.”

Excessively demanding standards, or striving for flawlessness can actually hold you back and result in procrastination, low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.People who fixate on what they messed up instead of what they have accomplished are no fun to work with or be around. They are self-critical, never satisfied; there is always more to be done and no room for mistakes.They create unnecessary stress for themselves and those around them. For them, life becomes an endless report card.

If you recognize yourselves in the above descriptions, try allowing yourself to make mistakes. Begin to give up the self-abuse of those unrealistically high standards and expectations of perfection for yourself and others. Create realistic goals and challenge your inner critic. Focus on self-care. You may be surprised at the relief and self-acceptance that you will feel as you release this self-imposed psychological burden. You may even like yourself better.