Are your expectations of yourself and others unrealistic? Are you consumed with everything in your life being absolutely perfect? Do you typically feel stress because you micromanage yourself and the lives of others for the sake of perfection?
People who strive for perfection are overachievers. Their life does not feel in sync unless their all their “ducks are in a row”. When life becomes disorganized or when an obstacle occurs, they spend endless energy figuring out how to make things right. Their goals are frequently not realistic or attainable, yet they continue to drive themselves (and others) to these standards.
Perfectionists are hard on themselves. They typically have an unmanageable need to have absolute control in their lives. When things are in order, they feel safe and secure. The problem is that nothing stays in order. Consequently, a perfectionist’s job is never done.
A perfectionist can be an overly critical parent, spouse, or boss. When they are in relationships with others, they get frustrated because others don’t adhere to their rigid standards. In the work setting, a perfectionist typically is complimented for their ability to get things done, but criticized for their people skills. Their coworkers or employees may feel like they never measure up to the job standards set by the perfectionist.
Why are people driven to be perfect? Perfectionists don’t mean to be hard on themselves or others. Perfectionism may have been conditioned in their childhood to do everything right or their parents were too rigid or disapproving. When a perfectionist was able to please their parents, it meant conditional love.
Some perfectionists have neurological/psychological features that complicate their perfectionism. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, although treatable with medication, is one in which the brain cannot shut down or take a rest unless things are done a certain way. A worker may need to have all papers off the desk before they can leave the office. A mother may not be able to have a single item of clothing in the hamper. Their perfectionism is driven by their psychological condition.
If you are a perfectionist, there are plenty of things you can do to “quiet that inner voice”. As with any condition, you have to be ready to change your expectations for yourself. Here are some suggestions:
Create two columns. In one column, write out five situations in which you strive for perfection. In the second column, write out a more realistic picture of those five situations. For example:
Column 1- I must get all the laundry done before I go to bed. Column 2-I will do three loads tonight, and threeloads tomorrow.
Column 1-I must follow my diet 100% or I fail. Column 2-I will plan one meal a week to have
carbohydrates so I can enjoy the
“everything in moderation” philosophy.
Column 1-I must have a perfect body to enjoy being at the beach. Column 2-Everyone has some natural flaws in theirbody. It is natural to have some imperfections.
Talk to mentors and share your struggles. When you share your need for perfection, others will encourage you not to be so hard on yourself.
- Read books like Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff or The Art of Letting Go.
- Recognize that your value as a person is not dependent on your achievements or accomplishments.
- Balance your life with rest and relaxation.
- Focus on the positive aspects of what is occurring in your life.
- Seek professional advice. Counseling and medication can be extremely helpful to learn strategies to battle the need to please or attain perfection.
Perfectionism cannot be cured, but it can be managed.