People consider having high standards a good thing. Striving for excellence shows that you have a good work ethic and strength of character. High standards also pushes you to reach your peak level of performance.
Perfectionism, on the other hand, is a tendency to set standards that are so high they either cannot be met, or are only met with great difficulty. Perfectionists believe that anything short of perfection is horrible, and that even minor imperfections will lead to catastrophe.
Recognize yourself yet?
Perfectionists believe they should never make mistakes and making a mistake means failure.
Perfectionist thinking is black and white thinking, all or nothing, as well as catastrophic thinking like making a mistake is embarrassing. Then, there is the probable thinking, as in I know I won’t do well no matter how much I try along with the infamous should beliefs of never letting anyone see how nervous, insecure or anxious you feel, never let anyone know you don’t have the answer and how you should always know what problems might happen before they happen.
You’d think these perfectionist would be DOING something constructive all the time then, right? Some do. Frantically and excessively. But not all perfectionist are doers…a lot of them are like me.
Chronic procrastinator: have difficulty finishing projects and just plain old gives up easily. Overly cautious and thorough, taking hours to complete a task other, while less perfectionist people would take only half an hour. Excessive checking, redoing things constantly, agonizing over details and decisions, making elaborate to do lists and avoiding new things to minimize the risk of making mistakes.
Wow! Don’t I sound great?:)
Now, the most popular form of therapy for changing perfectionist behaviour is that positive realistic statement approach. You know the one I mean, where you write stuff on your mirror like “I am great!”, I am beautiful, I am wonderful blah blah blah.
That is such crap!
Did I mention perfectionist have a hard time seeing other people‘s points of view? NO, I didn’t mention it and I didn’t mention getting bogged down in details either, which prevents seeing the big picture. Then there’s that pesky thing of compromising, which means you are supposed to figure out how much imperfection you can tolerate. Seriously?
Your practice activities to overcome perfectionism is to engage in all the behaviours that create the anxiety and stress you’ve been trying to avoid. Such as; purposely arriving late, telling people you’re tired, wear stained clothing, create uncomfortable silences with people, purposely be short on money for something important, lose your train of thought during a presentation, send an email with spelling mistakes, try a new restaurant without finding out if the food is any good, and so on and so on. Seriously?
This is all quite ridiculous! Preposterous! Stupid!
Oh. Wait a minute. Lowering my standards does not mean having NO standards. Carelessness and poor performance will not become my mantra. I’m just not sure how realistic the lower standard would be, afraid it will become the opposite extreme of perfectionism. Maybe, I should ask someone who isn’t a perfectionist…goodness knows there’s plenty of those people around!
Procrastinating is what I do best. Perfectly. Rather than spend hours working at something that will never be perfect enough for me, I just avoid doing it altogether until it becomes urgent. Then, instead of getting something just right, I get something rushed, much less than perfect and I’m exhausted to boot! Now, if only I could decide which project is the most important…
Oh yes, the last thing recommended is to reward yourself for trying to change your silly perfectionist ways.
Hmmm….I wonder what reward would be good enough?
Are you a perfectionist? Proud of it too, right?
So, if you are so right and the rest of the world is so wrong, how come you are still not perfect?