It’s common for people to smile sheepishly and say, “I’m a perfectionist!” If you’ve said this, chances are there’s a hint of pride in your attention to detail. People often compliment you on how hard you work and how thoughtful you are. It’s nice when people recognize your efforts! But you may also notice a sense of shame in how much energy you put into being perfect. After all, being a perfectionist often comes at the expense of leisure and self-care.
As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, you may not be seeking therapy because of your perfectionism. You may be tired of being alone or wanting to feel less anxious. Or you may notice that your family, friends, or colleagues frequently comment on your hypercriticism, your desire to be in control, or your insistence on being right. However, these may all be linked to perfectionism.
Intense needs for perfection can result in:
self-scrutiny, self-doubt, and self-criticism.
anxiety, worry, or depression.
relational issues as perfectionism can lead to alienation and missed social opportunities.
more time, money, and resources spent on fixing what isn’t quite broken or to redo entire projects because of minor perceived imperfections and flaws.
The perfectionism trap is easy to fall into. Many cultures emphasize success, achievement, efficiency, and a willingness to work hard. Therefore, it can be easy to view perfectionism as a useful quality. Don’t get me wrong-- hard work and attention to detail are helpful in school, work, and many other areas of life. However, perfectionists experience problems when their desire to be perfect becomes a way of living rather than a way of earning a living.
There are 3 types of perfectionism. Do any of them sound familiar to you?
1. SEEKING APPROVAL AND VALIDATION
You are hard working and eager to meet others’ expectations. Because when you’re perfect, people generally like you and they depend on you. It’s nice to feel liked and valued! However, the desire to meet everyone’s expectations can cause you to live in fear of their disapproval.
2. SEEKING ATTENTION
Growing up you may not have felt seen, acknowledged, or attended to by your parent. Now as an adult of an unloving parent, you may feel like you have lost your sense of self, and the only way to feel good is to stand out by being perfect.
3. SEEKING CONTROL OR CERTAINTY
You like precision, and you like to stay in control. You may even be reluctant to delegate tasks because you get easily frustrated by others’ imperfections. After all, your inner voice tells you “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” But in trying to protect your sense of control, others may view you as judgmental.
If you identify with any of these descriptions, cut yourself some slack! Perfectionism is mostly a result of learning and is an adaptation to a hypercritical, high-pressure, invalidating environment. Counseling can help!
How can counseling help?
Through counseling, you can understand the history of your perfectionism. You can overcome your fear of failure, your desire to be loved or admired, or your desire to please without lowering your standards. You can learn self-acceptance and how to be present in the moment. And you can finally experience perfection in your life without being perfectionistic. If you're ready to make some changes, contact me to schedule your free, 30 minute in-person consultation.