Perfectionism: Strength or Weakness?

Perfectionism: Strength or Weakness?

If you have ever been upset about someone not cleaning to your standards, getting a “B” in school, or someone not liking you, it is highly likely that you are a perfectionist. Our society rewards perfectionistic tendencies such as an insatiable drive and incredibly high standards. However, there are potential costs, including chronic stress, relationship difficulties, frequent anger, low self-esteem and psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety or eating disorders.


There are two main components to excessive perfectionism: having constant unrealistic expectations about yourself, others, and life, and being over-concerned with mistakes or small flaws. When anything falls short of a perfectionist’s expectations, they may be easily disappointed and become critical. Perfectionists also have a difficult time with spontaneity, and often become overwhelmed when unexpected challenges arise.

The following suggestions can help decrease perfectionism so you can have a more balanced life:


1. Evaluate the Way You Measure Your Worth

People that are psychologically healthy do not let their self-worth be determined by their accomplishments. Work on self-acceptance, self-compassion, and focus on evaluating yourself based on intrinsic traits, rather than extrinsic accomplishments.


2. Identify and Shift Thinking Styles

Perfectionistic attitudes often include: “Should/Must Thinking,” “All-or-Nothing Thinking,” and “Overgeneralization.” Notice these patterns in your self-talk, and work towards positive, healthier thoughts such as “I’m doing the best I can, and that is enough.”


3. Focus on the Positives

Get rid of the “buts” in your self-evaluation (E.g. “I had a good presentation, but I forgot to mention…”). For every negative or critical thought, counter this negativity and judgment with three positive thoughts.


4. Work on Realistic Goals That Are Specific and Measurable

Most perfectionists do not set specific goals, and if they set any goals, they often are never-ending, such as “I am going to be as fit as possible.” Specific goals are important because a beginning and an end is set. An example of a specific, measurable goal is, “I will work out 3 times this week, for 45 minutes of moderate intensity doing cardio exercises.”


5.Take a Different Perspective

Perfectionists often have difficulty seeing things from another person’s point of view. They also struggle with accurately assessing the importance of a task as they regularly overestimate the importance of many things. Practice looking at issues from 2-3 other perspective. Ask yourself, how significant will this be in a week, month, year, or 10 years?


6. Add More Play to Your Life

Most perfectionists are often known to not be fun. Deliberately plan more fun in your life, and surround yourself with people that are considered to be fun. Go to a theme park, put on rubber boots and jump in puddles, or even roll around on the ground playing with a pet. Regularly make having fun and playing a priority in your life, as it is critical for self-care and helps create a broader perspective of life that is not always achievement or goal orientated.


By Mallory Becker, Registered Psychologist