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the dark side of perfectionism

Perfectionists are “all or nothing” kind of people. 

Perfectionists define their worth by their accomplishments.

Perfectionists hate feedback.

Where does “Perfectionism” come from? Maybe….

You had hyper-critical or demanding parents.Your parents/teachers were quick to point out your mistakes; slow to give credit. You had parents or other relations who placed huge expectations on you and seemed to value you purely through your achievements. You were only praised for what you did right, (ie: straight A’s, highest scorer, MVP, etc…)Your parents had perfectionist standards for themselves. You never received any feedback at all and therefore have no yardstick to tell whether what you did was ever good enough.

While we have all laughed off the fact to others that we have “Perfectionistic” traits (that go hand in hand with OCD)…truth is… it also  goes hand in hand to anxiety disorders!

I found the following article “10 signs that you might be a Perfectionist” by Celestine Chuaquite, quite interesting.

You are highly conscious and hyper-critical of mistakes. Hence, you have an extremely sharp eye toward details. You aim to be the best in everything you do, even if it is something that you are not interested in. You spend copious amounts of time, right down to the last moment, to perfect something. You would rather sacrifice your well-being (such as sleep, eating time, etc) than let something be less than it can be. You set absolute ideals. There is only black and white, no grey. You are the harshest critic of yourself. You would beat yourself up over the smallest thing that went wrong, to the extent of being neurotic. You mull over outcomes if they did not turn out as envisioned. You wonder why it wasn’t a different outcome, and whether you could have done anything to prevent that. You are defensive toward criticism and have a fear of failure because they suggest imperfection. You only have the end goal in mind. If you don’t achieve the goal, it really does not matter what happens in the process.Y ou have an all-or-nothing approach. If the situation does not allow him/her to achieve the standard he/she laid out, he/she will abandon the task because it does not make sense to spend time on something that he/she is not going to conquer. You are very conscious of any situation which might give others the perception you are not perfect.

If you are a perfectionist, you will find the above traits highly familiar to you.

On the surface, being a perfectionist appears to be aspirational. We are goal achievers! We know how to do the job right!

A perfectionist is synonymous with being an overachiever. You are constantly driven to visionary goals, turning your life into a blazing trail of accomplishments.

You push yourself to be the best you can be unlocking potential that was previously untapped, that nobody knew was present. You achieve goals which people previously thought were not possible. You seem to have unlimited strength and motivation to move forward and persist regardless of the adversity of the situation. You have such a sharp eye for details that no mistakes are left unturned. Your presence ensures that everything will get done the way they should be done, and even better. You are a source of inspiration for people around you that ideals are possible to achieve. No one would intuitively see any downsides of perfectionism…or so we thought.

But studies are proving different!

Perfectionists, by definition, strive for the best, trying to ace exams, be meticulous at their jobs, keep a perfect home and raise perfect children.

But Perfectionism can have negative consequences in many different areas of our lives. An analysis published in the Journal of Counseling and Development found that perfectionism is linked to several health concerns like eating disorders, depression, migraines, anxiety, and personality disorders. Chronic pain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes have also been linked.

Perfectionists can and do often resort to yelling and anger because people do not do what they want, how they want it and when they want it. Ex: Perfectionist parents will frequently yell about messes and spills their children make. Or gripe at their spouse for not doing something right the first time. Or…nag about having to re-do something because it was less-than-acceptable.

Perfectionism is often looked at being a Temperament Strength, but it’s actually a Temperament Weakness. And when we impose our “perfectionist” ways onto others, we are pushing our weaknesses onto them!

Perfectionist tend to exclude and alienate people from their social circle. Not intentional…but because we tend to be drawn to people who are like-minded.

Perfectionism tends to have two components: a positive side, including things like setting high standards for ourselves. A dark side that includes expecting everyone around us, especially those we live with to set and live up to the same high standards. Which would be absolutely impossible for some to do.

I (Vickie) am a perfectionist. I used to be very proud of that fact. But I have had to readjust my thinking profusely the last several years because I was making demands on my family to live up to my standards, and it was not humanly possible for them to do so. 

Perfectionists are very self-critical, they are not EVER satisfied with their performance. They beat themselves up after an event with thoughts of how they could have done better!

No matter the root causes of your perfectionism or your desire for it, know that it is a desire for love and acceptance and there is another path to get there. Maybe your family only showed you love and attention when you did everything right. Or your boss only notices your work when you slave over every detail.

So how do we learn to live with ourselves? How do we change?

Cut yourself some slack. Cut others some slack.

Stop over-analyzing.

Tell yourself “It’s OK.”

It is Ok that that house is not perfect.

It is OK that there are dishes in the sink.

It is OK that I did not finish the laundry.

It is OK that I was 3 minutes late for my pedicure.

It is OK that I didn’t finish painting that room today.

Forgive yourself. Let go of controlling yourself and others.

Stay focused on the big picture. Less on the details.

Start seeing the forest. Delegate when possible.

Enjoy the process of life. Celebrate small victories.

Enjoy the ride. Not just the destination.

Stop comparing. Start connecting.

Start observing and appreciating the uniqueness of each of your family members.

Put on Christ! And learn to Love unconditionally, just like Jesus! (Romans 13:14 I Cor 13)

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