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Stuck on Perfect

Having high standards and striving for excellence can be a good thing and help us reach our goals in life. A high achiever can find satisfaction with their performance even if their goals are not entirely met, taking pride in their accomplishments and being supportive of others in the process. Healthy striving to obtain realistic goals can lead to a sense of self-satisfaction and increase one’s self-esteem. Failure is viewed as part of the growth process allowing high achievers to bounce back from disappointment.

Perfectionism, on the other hand, goes to the extreme by setting excessively high standards that cannot be met or only met with great difficulty. Perfectionism has us relentlessly striving towards extremely high standards and then judging ourselves (or others) on the ability to complete such unrelenting standards. Perfectionists strive for flawlessness, are concerned about others’ evaluation of themselves, are rarely satisfied with their performance, and feel a sense of shame and guilt when things go wrong.

Since perfectionism is built upon fear, inflexible rules and unreasonable standards it can be debilitating sabotaging all good and well-meaning intentions.

Some habits of perfectionists include:
• All-or-Nothing thinking. Something is either right or wrong, good or bad, success or failure, where things are either perfect, or they are just not good enough.
• Perfectionism makes us critical of ourselves and others by honing in on the mistakes while discounting the positives in a situation.
• Perfectionists are motivated by fear of not reaching goals and see anything less than perfect as a failure. This dread of failure leaves little room to enjoy the process of growing along the way. This fear of failure ultimately leads to procrastination. The excessive worry about doing something imperfectly can immobilize the perfectionist from doing anything at all. Leading to further feelings of failure and perpetuating a cycle of procrastination. This is how perfectionism keeps us stuck!
• Perfectionism can leave us isolated and alone since our critical nature and rigidity can push others away. This criticism of ourselves harms our self-esteem making it even more difficult to succeed and achieve our goals.

If you recognize some perfectionist characteristics in yourself, don’t lose hope! Accepting a less than perfect performance of yourself can be a painful and scary step but acknowledging that a change may be needed is an essential first step towards relieving the stress and anxiety experienced from trying so hard to be perfect.

Jodi Kunz, MC, is a trained EMDR therapist and is experienced in working with trauma, plus many more. For more information on Jodi and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.