I get many clients asking me, “Am I a perfectionist?”. Many of my clients who suffer from perfectionism (yes, suffer – it causes a lot of unnecessary stress) don’t recognise it in themselves. When we have views about perfectionism we will invariably want to keep doing things that we feel help us to keep on top of things. Underyling perfectionism is often the fear of failure. Perfectionists believe that if they keep striving and achieving they will not feel like failures. What they don’t realise is that they get stuck in a rut of being constantly busy, trying to fill a void within them.
Signs you are a perfectionist:
Your self worth is closely linked to your achievements and striving to achieve.
You have inflexible standards believing things need to be a certain way for you to perform and get ahead. “Good or bad, success or failure”
You use errors in thinking – things must be a certain way or should be a certain way (inflexible standards).
You judge yourself according to what you do rather than who you are.
When you achieve something too easily, you assess the goal as too easy instead of giving yourself credit.
At times you set such high expectations that you end up procrastinating instead of getting ahead.
When you aren’t able to achieve in the way you planned, you take it out on yourself and become self critical.
Being a perfectionist places so much pressure upon a person to perform and often, they mever feel good enough underneath. Perfectionism can come from parents whose loves appeared conditional upon performance. Example: you only received praise if you achieved good grades at school. This sends a message that you are not good enough byt just ‘being’, and that you have to be achieving in order to be considered worthwhile.
This can lead to a person never feeling good enough. Most perfectionists don’t feel good enough and this is what drives their behaviour. They have a rule for livng: “If I achieve more then I will feel okay about myself”.
What to do about perfectionism
Break free from the achievement trap. It’s okat t want to achieve but your self worth should be there whether you are achieving or not. Learn to love the person you are – what are your good qualities? Kind? Honest? Caring? Focus on those too, not just on what you have achieved.
Learn to make mistakes and be okay with it. Sending an email with spelling errors has nothing to do with your worthiness as a person. Have fub making mistakes and playing with failure – get used to it and embrace it. It has nothing to do with your value.
If it was true that we are only good enough and worthwhile once we have achieved, that would mean we are all worthless as babies until we begin acheiving. Looking at it this way I hope you can see how crazy this viewpoint is.
Reject the idea that constant striving will make you feel worthy. Feeling worthy comes from self love and acceptance, from living according to our values and appreciating our strengths as well as our weaknesses.