Signs of Perfectionism

Signs of Perfectionism

By Jake Lamberton.

When talking about perfectionism we often think of someone who is highly detail-oriented. In psychology, we often look at perfectionism as involving working to extremely high standards and determining self-worth based on whether those standards are met.

Though having standards is important and a strength, if excessive, striving for these high standards can result in negative impacts on personal and professional lives. These standards could be identified as unrelenting, that is, standards that are not only high but remain so regardless of context. For example, wanting to obtain a High Distinction on an assignment despite struggling with sickness and poor sleep.

Yet perfectionists continue to strive for them.

Some signs that you may be struggling with perfectionism:

  • Procrastinating and putting things off because you fear that you won’t meet your standards.
  • Difficulty making decisions as each decision is not perfect enough or there may be a more perfect decision you haven’t thought of yet.
  • Seeking external validation from others to make sure what you are doing is okay.
  • Making a lot of lists and over-organising things.
  • Quitting things easily as you are not good enough or fast enough.
  • Trying to stay away from situations in which there is a risk of failure or of others noticing you not being perfect.
  • Repeatedly checking or looking over things to make sure there are no mistakes.

If you struggle with some of the situations above, perhaps take a step back and check if you are falling into an unhelpful thinking style. If you are, it may be helpful to challenge those thought processes:

  • Check for ‘black-and-white’ thinking or if you are only seeing extremes. Challenge by asking yourself what the grey area may be in this situation.
  • Check for ‘Should’s’ and ‘Must’s’. Challenge and reframe the statement as ‘my goal is to…’ or ‘I would like to…’ to take a step away from unreasonable expectations of yourself.
  • Check for jumping to conclusions or assuming we know what might happen or what others will think. Challenge yourself by asking if you have any evidence for those assumptions and reframe by using language that reflect outcomes-based more in reality.
  • Check for ‘catastrophising’ or thinking of a worst-case scenario. Challenge by asking yourself what the best, worst and most likely scenario is. Ask yourself if the worst thing happened would that even matter a day, week, month or year from now?

A lot of us see perfectionism as something desirable but if aiming for unrelentingly high standards is having a negative impact on your personal and professional life maybe see if you are falling into some common unhelpful thinking styles and try to challenge some of them!

This blog was written by Jake Lamberton, to learn more about Jake’s experience, click here.

To book an appointment with Jake or one of our other Psychologists, click here.

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