Perfectionism, or the desire or need to be/act/achieve or perform in a way that is “perfect” isn’t uncommon – it is a trap that is easy to fall into, often without realising.
“Perfectionism” refers to a refusal to accept anything less than flawlessness. It often goes hand-in-hand with self-criticism and worries about what other people think. While the pursuit of excellence can encourage us to work hard to reach our goals, sometimes perfectionist traits mean that we keep setting those goals back and back. This means we are not able to enjoy our achievements as they stand but instead keep looking to the next thing we haven’t done yet. Eventually you might reach your limit, and feel very badly about yourself. Combined with self-critical nitpicking at ourselves, it’s not surprising that this can potentially really bring us down.
Do you find yourself dismissing your achievements with criticism (e.g. “It wasn’t that great, I made this mistake…”)? Do you compare yourself to other people and set impossible standards for yourself? Are you unable to allow yourself to pause and enjoy your achievements? Do you discount your achievements because you didn’t manage something else (e.g. “Yes, I achieved XYZ, but none of it counts because of ABC…”)?
Albert Ellis came up with the wonderful word “musturbation”. This refers to the perfectionist tendency to set extremely high standards before allowing the self to feel pride/achievement/success. How many times a day you do find yourself thinking or saying that you “must” do this or that before you will allow yourself to be satisfied?
The big question is… How much is perfectionism or ‘musturbation’ helping you in your life, and how much is it hindering you?
Do you feel in control of it? Are you able to shrug off self-criticism or not indulge in it in the first place? How does not reaching your super-high standards affect your self-esteem? Would you criticise your best friend the way you criticise yourself? What are you afraid of, if you sit back and enjoy something you have achieved that isn’t “perfect”?
Not all perfectionism is bad – some people find it spurs them on to greater things that they enjoy. However, if perfectionism is causing you to feel worse and holding you back from life, you might want to change things.