Perfectionism is a trait that causes a person to focus on avoiding failure rather than achieving success. Studies suggest that as a perfectionist strives for perfection in every area of their life, they may develop depression, eating disorders, and anxiety. Perfection is impossible to achieve, and that could be a really uncomfortable and depressing reality to live with for a perfectionist. They know the attempt is futile but must still strive for the unattainable.
Perfectionism is a personality trait that exists on a continuum from those who accept in full our messy reality as it comes to those who need everything to be just as they believe it should be, or else. Most people fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Perfectionism can be a benefit or a hindrance. Perfectionists may do exceptionally high-quality work, but they also may be more critical of themselves and others.
Causes of perfectionism
A perfectionist is driven by a combination of internal and social pressures to avoid failure. Experts believe that an increase in competition and the rise of social media have caused a rise in perfectionism in young adults during recent decades. Many young adults feel the need to carefully curate a social media presence that everyone in the world could see. That is an enormous pressure on a child. Parents and academic figures may also put pressure on children to perform, encouraging perfectionism.
To a perfectionist, if it isn’t perfect, it is a complete disaster. A perfectionist may struggle to complete tasks if things aren’t going just right, and would rather scrap all their work than have an imperfect product. Praise and recognition of a job done to perfection are incredibly important to a perfectionist; without it, they may fixate on what flaws others may perceive.
Attitude towards others
Perfectionists produce quality work, and they definitely don’t trust you to do the same. Working with a perfectionist can be trying as they may have impossibly high standards, attempt to micromanage, and get frustrated at any deviation from their plan. A perfectionist may have a hard time delegating tasks and trusting others to meet their standards, thus potentially insulting their peers.
Perfectionism vs. Success
Perfectionists focus on avoiding mistakes at all costs. By viewing errors as unacceptable, they believe they are less successful in making them. This belief makes perfectionists very different from those who seek success healthily and use mistakes as lessons.
Perfectionism drives a person to continually demand perfection from themselves and others. Perfection is impossible, so the person is continuously disappointed. This disappointment can lead to depression and anxiety in addition to other mental issues like obsessiveness, loneliness, frustration, and anger.
The most important step to overcoming perfectionism is realizing that just because something isn’t perfect, it doesn’t mean that it is a total disaster either. A good exercise for a person who begins to feel anxiety about perfection is to stop and ask, “what would the outcome be if I weren’t perfect?” If a deluge of fears tries to overwhelm you, focus on each one. Then evaluate the reality and possibility of each. Try to notice the positive characteristics of your project and set realistic goals; this will boost your self-esteem and fight off perfectionism.
Working with others
Working with others can be difficult for a perfectionist. Try to delegate tasks, release some control, and let go of feeling responsible for other’s mistakes. It may be helpful to ask non-perfectionist coworkers if your thoughts and goals are realistic and achievable.