Is perfectionism a thorn in your side?

What is a perfectionist?

A perfectionist is a person who has to get everything right. They tend to have excessively high standards and continually feel let down by others and themselves. Chances are if you are reading this article you have identified yourself as a perfectionist.

Many people will work on a task and get to a stage where they feel that there will be very little more gain for more effort yet this is not the case for the perfectionist... the perfectionist will keep going and going and have difficulty letting things go. 

Perfectionism is an unobtainable illusion and the chances are the more effort you put in, the more you will feel like a failure and be vulnerable to feelings such as anger, depression, anxiety and many sleepless nights!

What motivates a perfectionist? 

Fear of failure. 

In failing to completely reach a goal there is an internal message of being a failure which can stem from deep unrecognised needs. Maybe as a child you were only accepted if you continually did well. Maybe you were never encouraged that ‘your best is good enough’. Maybe you have low self-esteem and believe you are only good in the eyes of others. Maybe you feel your perfectionism is a quality that 'just is'. Relationships can be a nightmare for the perfectionist (and their partner!) as they may find themselves being continually critical.

What can you do to begin to help yourself?

  • List the advantages and disadvantages of being a perfectionist.
  • Limit the time you spend on a task.
  • Share your feelings with others, e.g. inadequacy, overwhelmed, exhausted, angry, etc.
  • Enjoy the process of the task rather than just the end result.
  • Set yourself mini tasks along the way to empower yourself so it is not all about the end result.
  • Document the learning you get from your own mistakes... it really is true that you learn from your mistakes!
  • Attempt things that challenge you and put you out of your comfort zone.
  • Strive for excellence rather than perfection.

How counselling can help?

Counselling provides an opportunity to look at what is driving your fear of failure. The chances are that it is the value and belief system of another (and not your own) that is your driver. What is important is that these have been internalised as your own and, today, years later, continue to have a big impact on your life creating negative thoughts and feelings. 

You were not born a perfectionist and whatever is learnt can be unlearnt. 

You are more than your efforts!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Alfold GU6 & Horsham RH12
Written by Kate Heavey, Qualified in Individual + Couple Work, BA(Hons), BACP Accred
Alfold GU6 & Horsham RH12

Kate is a qualified counsellor/psychotherapist with private practices in Ripley and Cranleigh, Surrey. She has many years experience working with people and relationships.

Kate's aim is to work in a non-judgemental, respectful, honest and real way. As well as a counsellor she is a human who continues to work at overcoming her own 'perfectionism'.

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