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Understanding the Psychology of Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a common trait in today's fast-paced culture and for good reason. If you are a perfectionist, knowing that the need to be perfect can be a clear sign that everyone else is judged more than you.


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obomate dan

5 months ago | 4 min read
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What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by an individual's striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high standards for oneself.

**Perfectionist ** /pəˈfɛkʃ(ə)nɪst/ (noun): a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.

A perfectionist is someone who has an inert desire to strive towards perfection, focusing on flaws, attempting to control situations, striving diligently, or being critical of oneself as well as others.

Characteristics of a Perfectionist

  • All or nothing thinking: Perfectionism can be a beneficial trait to possess at times, but it also has negatives. Perfectionists frequently have a strong desire to win and will go to great lengths to achieve it. Because they don't want to make any mistakes, they may end up burning themselves out or passing up opportunities for success. There is no such thing as perfection, and we should avoid pursuing it. Rather, we should learn to be satisfied with the progress we make and the talents we acquire over time.
  • Fear of failure: The fear of failure is unyielding. Failure causes a great deal of anguish and pain, but it also can develop vital character traits and talents. Some concerns are accentuated in the psyche of a perfectionist. The dread of using the wrong word, the worry of leaving a chore undone, the fear of appearing inept are all more likely to dominate your thoughts than the opportunity to learn from a mistake.
  • Defensiveness: Because a less-than-perfect performance is so unpleasant and frightening to perfectionists, they tend to react defensively to constructive criticism.
  • Highly critical: They feel compelled to be the best all of the time, and may resort to pulling other people down to feel better about themselves. While we are all critical of others from time to time, a level of perfectionism that causes you to be always critical can harm your professional reputation and cause you to lose friends.
  • Procrastination: Some perfectionists are also procrastinators because they are afraid of not accomplishing something well enough to meet their own or someone else's standards, therefore it is often safer not to start at all.
  • Unmet Goals Make You Depressed: Perfectionists tend to beat themselves up and wallow in bad emotions when their high goals are not attained.

Causes of Perfectionism

To assess how perfectionism is affecting your career and personal goals, you must first grasp the many aspects or traits of perfectionism. When any of these factors are present, perfectionism is often prevalent:

  • Parental expectations are rigid and strong.
  • Parents who are harsh, humiliating, or abusive
  • Excessive adoration for your accomplishments
  • Low self-esteem or a sense of inadequacy
  • Believing that your accomplishments define your self-worth
  • Mental health issues like anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Cultural presumptions

Types of perfectionism

  • Socially prescribed perfectionism is motivated by the desire to please others as a result of the perceived expectations of people around them. People who have this form of obsessiveness are continuously concerned with what others think of them. This can be focused on their job performance, their appearance, or other aspects that they are concerned will lead to them being rejected in some way, and these persistent fears of not being perfect enough to fit in or be accepted can generate a great deal of anxiety.
  • Personal standards perfectionists adhere to a set of criteria that motivates them. Others may still think these are high standards, but they are motivating for the individual who sets them. The perfectionism of this type is believed to be good because it does not cause excessive stress or burnout. People who have high personal standards are less prone to engaging in risky behaviors to cope with the stress caused by perfectionism. This form of perfectionism exists only when a person's ambitions motivate them rather than overwhelm or immobilize them.
  • Self-critical perfectionists are more likely to be intimidated by the goals they set for themselves than driven by them. They may feel hopeless or as though their dreams will never come true. According to research, self-critical perfectionism is more likely to result in negative emotions like depression, anxiety, and self-condemnation.

Setting Healthy Goals

Setting goals is critical in helping perfectionists change their behavior. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is not the yardstick by which healthy goal setting should be measured. Healthy goals should be: 

  • Based on wants and desires
  • Healthy goals are one step beyond present or previous achievements
  • Pleasure can be derived from the process of working towards the goal
  • Disapproval or failure can be seen as to a specific situation.

Overcoming your Perfectionism

Here are a few points on how to overcome perfectionism:

  • Make a list of the benefits and drawbacks of attempting to be flawless: Make a list of the benefits and drawbacks of your mind's influence on your productivity, job, life, and relationships. Being aware of these variables might help you realize the impact of this mentality and feel more inspired to start making positive adjustments.
  • Increase your awareness of the self-critical nature of your all-or-nothing thinking, as well as how it affects other people in your life: You'll be in a better position to change your tendencies if you become more aware of them. It's a good idea, if you're able, to jot down your perfectionistic thoughts as they come to you. You may go through your day each night and jot down the moments when you feel you've failed or haven't done well enough. This will assist you in being more aware of perfectionistic thoughts as they arise in the future.
  • Start small: Changing your goals can alleviate a great deal of stress. You don’t have to sacrifice the result, but if you set bite-sized goals for yourself and reward yourself when you achieve them, you’ll tend to be more forgiving with mistakes.
  • Understand how to deal with criticism: Focus on being more impartial about the criticism and yourself and If you are criticized for making a mistake, admit it and assert your right to make mistakes.
  • Be honest about your abilities: In doing this you realize that **imperfect ** results do not lead to the punitive consequences you expect and fear.

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Created by

obomate dan

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Ethical Hacker, Technical Writer

Hi, I'm Obomate. I'm a graduate of Biochemistry pursuing a career in cybersecurity. I love books, especially hardcopy books, and will be writing on numerous topics, most of which will be cybersecurity-related.


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