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Perfectionism: What It Is, How to Cope With It

Some people have this innate need, or even a compulsion for everything they do to turn out perfect. Just as it appears in their head, so it must turn out.

And if it doesn’t? Major meltdown.

This phenomenon is known as perfectionism.

And while there is no harm in wanting perfection, perfectionism can come with a lot of problems.

Definition of perfectionism 

Perfectionism is the urge and drive to appear, feel, and be perfect. And although society generally views perfectionism as a positive attribute, it also can have negative effects.

Someone who always wants things to be perfect is called a perfectionist. They usually have these excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations. They insist on perfection and accept nothing shy of flawlessness.

This can manifest as criticism of self and others and in attempts to control situations and people.

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Cause of perfectionism

Perfectionism: What It Is, How to Cope With It - battabox.com

Various factors can result in having a perfectionist personality. These include:

  • Fear of judgment or disapproval from others
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Having parents with unrealistically high expectations
  • Having a mental condition associated with perfectionist tendencies, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder 
  • A thirst for control
  • Tying self-worth to achievements

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Traits of a perfectionist

Traits of a Perfectionist

They are high achievers 

Perfectionists set and work hard to achieve lofty goals. They can be only satisfied with doing a great job and achieving excellence or something close.

A perfectionist will accept nothing less than perfection. Even “almost perfect” is seen as a failure.

They have unrealistic standards

Another trait of being a perfectionist is setting unreasonable goals. High achievers can set their goals high, enjoying the fun of going a little further once these goals are reached.

Perfectionists often set their initial goals out of reach. They may either want to prove something to themselves or others.

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They are afraid of failure

Perfectionists have a greater fear of failure than high achievers. They place so much hope on results and become disappointed when there is nothing.

Since anything less than perfection is seen as a failure, it makes it difficult to get them to start on anything new.

They are critical

Someone with a perfectionist personality is more critical of themselves. They can take pride in their accomplishments and tend to be supportive of others, but also often spot mistakes and imperfections.

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They are slightly pushed by fear

Even though they are often pulled toward their goals by a desire to achieve them, they also tend to be pushed by a fear of anything less than a perfectly met goal.

They focus only on the results

Do perfectionists enjoy the process of chasing a goal or meeting the goal itself? No, they see the goal or nothing else. The journey doesn’t mean anything to them unless they come out strong and victorious in the end.

They avoid failure and won’t enjoy the process of growing and striving.

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They often feel discouraged by unmet goals

One thing we need to know is that perfectionists tend to beat themselves up and sulk in negative feelings when their high expectations go unmet. 

They struggle to move on when things don’t work out the way they had hoped.

They have low self-esteem

Although striving for perfectionism can be associated with higher self-esteem, when someone with a perfectionist personality evaluates themselves critically, this contributes to low self-esteem.

They can also feel lonely due to their critical nature and push others away. This also contributes to low self-esteem. 

This can also overall affect life satisfaction while also impacting their relationships.

They are defensive 

Do you know how someone would take constructive criticism and make it work? That is not the case for a perfectionist. They will often respond defensively to constructive criticism even when it can help improve their future performance.

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What is the truth about perfectionism?

We are not saying that striving toward perfection is bad, but people need to be realistic with their goals. Life doesn’t always pull through for people and goals fall through. 

Nobody is perfect.

This is why being a perfectionist is challenging because it’s difficult to be perfect. 

Unhealthy perfectionism is characterized by an excessive focus on control. Perfectionists can become extremely picky and preoccupied with making sure everything is flawless, which can lead to attempts to control situations or people. This can cause problems with interpersonal relationships.

Not to mention that it can also contribute to higher levels of stress. When you push for something to be perfect, you may get anxious or even have other conditions such as OCD, low self-esteem, eating disorders, sleep disturbances, and psychological distress.

READ: How to improve your mindset

What to do if you’re a perfectionist?

If you are a perfectionist and want to reduce some of its negative impacts on your life, some strategies can help you overcome perfectionism.

You can create an environment where you feel accepted. Also engaging in positive self-talk.

Do not compare yourself to others and learn how to focus on the present without worrying as much about the past or future. Experts say that techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), such as challenging negative thoughts, can also help. 

Related: The Different Male Personality Types

Conclusion on perfectionism

Yes, there is healthy perfectionism that can drive people to perform their best, but unhealthy perfectionism can lead to stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and other issues that can affect their quality of life.

If you are a perfectionist, you need to be aware that life comes with a lot of changes, and your goals may not always pull through. When you take a calmer approach to life, it would lead to a healthier approach that will still allow you to achieve your goals with less stress and negativity.

Oluwatoyin Odunuyi
Oluwatoyin Odunuyihttps://linktr.ee/ToyinAjua
Oluwatoyin Eria-Ajua Odunuyi resides in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria. In 2020, she received a BSc in Mass communication from Caleb University and specialized in print journalism. Toyin loves to write romance novels because she is obsessed with living in a never-ever-land and often lives through her books. She presently owns a 5-year blog called "An Inclusive Kind world" where she speaks on Autism and society's role in pushing for awareness and inclusion.